More worries of further contamination of food from China

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Chinese dairy products are removed from a supermarket in China as a result of the scandal.
Image: Marc van der Chijs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that more food imported from China may be contaminated with melamine, a chemical used in the manufacturing of plastics. Melamine, although nontoxic in very small amounts, can cause severe kidney problems in large doses.

Guanshengyuan, a Chinese company that makes children's candy, has stopped selling its popular brand White Rabbit, which is sold nationally in China, after tests confirmed the presence of melamine. Bright foods owns the candy company. Earlier their powdered milk was found to contain melamine which sickened over 53,000 people and was responsible for the deaths of at least four infant children. Guanshengyuan has stopped exporting their goods to the nearly 50 companies overseas that buy them.

Melamine has also been found in Hong Kong in baby cereal and vegetable formula made by Heinz. It has also been found in wasabi crackers which are manufactured by the Chinese company, Silang House.

Another Chinese food company called Marudai Food Co. has also halted the sales of several items such as meat buns, cream buns and corn crepes made with cream over fears that melamine laced powered milk has contaminated their products. So far there have been no reports of any illnesses associated with Marudai Foods.

Further items recalled or other products that feared to be contaminated with melamine are Mr. Browns Instant Coffee and tea products, along with their powdered milk.

The first report of contamination came last week when the Chinese health ministry confirmed that the companies responsible for producing the milk were trying to repair their damaged public image by increasing output using melamine. The Chinese Health Ministry has stated that most of the tainted milk was produced by Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group Co.

The WHO says that women with infants should consider breast feeding for the time being on infants aged at least six months, until the contaminated milk can be removed from the consumption chain.

"WHO recommends that all infants should be fed exclusively with breast milk for the first six months of life. No other liquid or food, not even water, is needed during this period. Thereafter, infants should receive adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues up to two years of age and beyond," said the WHO in a statement on their website.

In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed the presence of melamine in pet food that was imported from China. Samples indicated that wheat gluten, used as an ingredient in the pet food, was contaminated with the chemical. As a result of the contamination, the FDA said some of the contaminated gluten entered the human food chain. At least 45 people ate contaminated pork which was traced to pigs from a farm in California. The pigs had eaten feed that had been contaminated. There were no reports of deaths or illnesses.

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