This is quite a brave heading but as things started to unfold over the past few weeks, there’s a chance that China may not be entirely at fault for the melamine in the milk – at least we don’t think that melamine had been deliberately added into the milk to fake the protein test.

The first thing that came to my mind was – why melamine? There are a thousand and one proteins out there that can probably fake a protein test (milk is periodically tested to ensure that there is sufficient amounts of certain proteins in it) and to use melamine probably requires some level of sophistication on the part of the China factory on hind sight. To suddenly find melamine in every almost single thing imaginable now means that the factories in China have syndicates all over the world, or that something went wrong in some fundamental food chain that led to the surfacing of melamine everywhere.

While the Chinese authorities have taken responsibility for the presence of melamine in the milk and that “the chemical was added to milk before being sold to dairy manufacturers in a bid to falsely boost protein readings”, I felt that there is more than meets the eye. *plays transformer song*

There was a dead gave away when melamine was also found in lactoferrin, one of the export products from New Zealand. Unless there is a worldwide conspiracy on the use of melamine in their products, it is unlikely that the factories in New Zealand have also added melamine into their products to fake a protein test. However, if you look at the common denominator of the products, the answer lies in the cows. To be more precise, it lies in the food of the cows.

Melamine is a by-product of cyromazine and is formed in the bodies of mammals that have ingested cyromazine. Cyromazine is a pesticide that is commonly used to control pests in plants. If cows have been given such plants as part of their diet, it could be possible that melamine is formed in their bodies and passed out in their milk and urine. This is particularly evident in the latest report of vegetables being tainted with melamine, which probably has no purpose when used on plants. However, it was also reported that cyromazine may also be converted to melamine on plants through photodegradation, resulting in dealkylation and thus the formation of melamine. This can be found in Lim et al., 1990 L.O. Lim, S.J. Scherer, K.D. Shuler and J.P. Toth, Disposition of cyromazine in plants under environmental conditions, J. Agric. Food Chem. 38 (1990), pp. 860–864.

Thus, the real culprit at the end of the day could be the pesticide, cyromazine, through use of it leads to the metabolite, melamine being formed in milk, urine and on plants through photodegradation. To this, I felt that the Chinese government was probably too quick to admit to the accusation that their factories could have played a vital role to fake protein tests. Of course, it may still be possible that the factories somehow manage to find out that melamine had always been present in milk and perhaps thought that it’s an inexpensive way to boost their protein test results. The truth of it, will probably be known after a thorough investigation had been carried out.

Melamine-tainted veggies

KOTA KINABALU – THE Malaysian Health Ministry is now on high alert over melamine-tainted vegetables imported from China.

‘We have learnt from Korea that they have detected a high level of melamine in vegetables they import from China,’ said Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai.

‘We have launched a level 4 check on all food products from China where we will take samples to ensure the products are safe for consumption before releasing it into the market,’ he told reporters after attending the Sabah MCA convention on Saturday.

Mr Liow assured that melamine-tainted food products in the country were at the permissible level of 2.5 parts per million (ppm), whilst baby products contained one ppm. – BERNAMA

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/SE%2BAsia/Story/STIStory_286024.html?vgnmr=1

And the milk scare continues:

China milk scandal spreads

SEOUL – SOUTH Korea, Australia and Japan on Saturday pulled melamine-contaminated sweets and drinks from supermarket shelves amid a widening scandal over Chinese milk products tainted with the toxic chemical.

Authorities in Seoul ordered Mars and Nestle to pull three products after melamine, which is usually used for making plastics, was detected in snacks made in China by the multinationals.

The industrial chemical had been found in M&M’s milk chocolate snack and Snickers peanut Fun Size, both produced by Mars, and Kit Kat chocolate bars imported from Nestle Tianjin in China, Korea Food and Drug Administration said.

‘Mars is recalling these products because it is legally obligated to do so following the announcement by the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA),’ Mars said in a statement.

Melamine has been blamed for making thousands of infants ill and killing four in mainland China after it tainted baby milk powder in one of the country’s worst ever product safety scandals.

China is struggling to limit the damage to its food safety reputation as a growing number of countries have decided to suspend imports of Chinese milk products or withdraw them from sale over the scandal.

Mars said while it was complying with the South Korean request, the melamine levels detected were too small to pose a health risk, and called for a standard reporting limit of the industrial chemical across Asia.

‘Minute traces of melamine are commonly found throughout the global food chain and melamine levels below 2.5 ppm are not deemed to indicate adulteration with melamine,’ it said. There was no immediate comment from Nestle Korea.

A KFDA official said South Korea does not allow any level of melamine in food. ‘No melamine in food is our standard,’ he said.

World Health Organisation food safety expert Peter Ben Embarek said earlier this week that many countries had only recently fixed limits for melamine in food as ‘melamine has nothing to do with the food chain’.

The chemical was added to milk before being sold to dairy manufacturers in a bid to falsely boost protein readings, Chinese authorities have said.

A fourth Chinese milk product has been withdrawn from sale in Australia after tests revealed it was tainted with melamine, Food Standards Australia New Zealand said in a statement.

‘Consumers are advised not to consume Kirin milk tea made in China,’ the organisation said.

The Australian food watchdog has already recalled White Rabbit sweets and Chinese-made Cadbury chocolate eclairs, while importers of Lotte Koala Biscuits have undertaken a precautionary withdrawal of the product.

A Japanese importer, meanwhile, began recalling Chinese chocolates suspected of being contaminated with melamine.

The western Japanese city of Osaka said a test showed the chemical had been detected in ‘Chocolate Pillows’ imported from China by Osaka-based NS International.

While there had been no reports of health problems, the city ordered the importer to recall some 86,000 packages of the chocolates on the grounds that the company may have violated the food sanitation law.

A growing number of countries throughout Asia as well as Africa are banning products over the scandal but it has also hit Europe.

The European Union recently banned all imports on Chinese milk-related products for children such as biscuits and chocolate on top of a long-standing embargo on Chinese dairy products like milk and yoghurt. – AFP

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Asia/Story/STIStory_285829.html

Article extracted on 5th October 2008



Reader's Comments

  1. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 6 Oct 2008 | October 6th, 2008 at 11:31 am

    […] Melamine in my Milk – Simply Jean: Melamine in everything? There may be more coming… and here’s why […]

  2. Onlooker | October 6th, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Jean I know what your point is but the thing that is sticking out the most is that:- as a guardian to the health and well being of it’s citizen, Why did this kind of incident where the citizens can be affected adversely not prevented?
    I have noted with dismay that almost all the 1st world countries that are alerted have taken appropriate countermeasure as soon as they received the news.
    Meaning:- issue a warning and Start the process of Food Screening so that their citizens can sustain themselves knowing that which one of their food is safe for consumption.
    This is the one of the most basic duties of the government.to preserve the welfare of it’s citizens.
    If they are not efficient or there is a cover up, the person in charge of the Quality control will Take responsibility via a symbolic action.(either Stepping down , got punished financially or demoted)
    But all in all this had also reveal the fact that we were too dependent on “Made in China” Low cost but no quality products.
    Growth at all cost have it collateral in the loss of lives.
    However one must note:- that dependence itself is cause by the greed of the merchants who want low cost and high profit at the expense of their Customers.

  3. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 41 | October 11th, 2008 at 10:18 am

    […] in my Milk – Simply Jean: Melamine in everything? There may be more coming… and here’s why – Food Fads: Three more products with melamine discovered in Singapore [Thanks ecko as] – […]

  4. LT | July 20th, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    I think you will find that it is not actully cyromazine which is the culprit here, there is a wealth of studies on cryomazine which say that melamine in cyrozamzine treated crops reach very low ppm concentrations.
    The melamine found in cattle as you have already mentioned comes from contaminated protien and grain, again spiked with melamine to boost the protien content and get a better price for it (this by the way was because Western companies ‘cottoned on’ to the fact they were selling low grade low protien feeds and started to ask for protien content as a pre-requisite for buying)as more protien=better grade.

    Melamine was chosen (presumably) because it is relatively non toxic (acute LD50 of >2000mg/kg) and is very cheap and has lots of nitrogen to fool the protien tests!.
    When you test for toxicity for a compound you tend to test for that compound alone, but the melamine used in the contaminated food was impure, and melamine+these impurities was what lead to the trouble.

    The problem is that mixed with a few other contaminants and a few external factors such as protien deficiency and dehydration, melamine can cause damaging crystalisation in the kidneys-especially in vulnerable groups(such as the newly born)as they are more succeptable to the toxic renal effects due to their undeveloped kidneys.

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