Prompted by reports of melamine contamination in infant formula and dairy products manufactured in China, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last Friday issued an interim safety and risk assessment of melamine in food. Although Grade A products from China are not allowed in the United States, the agency discovered traces of melamine in Chinese candy on the shelves of two stores in Connecticut and acted quickly to determine the level of melamine in food that would not raise public health concerns.
For food products other than infant formula, FDA concluded that extremely low levels of melamine, below 2.5 parts per million, are not a public health concern. The agency recommended a zero-tolerance level for baby formula, however, citing gaps in scientific knowledge about the toxic effects of melamine on infants.
To date, there have been no cases of melamine contamination in infant formula or dairy products in the United States. However, White Rabbit Creamy Candy manufactured in China was pulled last week from the shelves of two stores in New Haven, Conn., when the candy was found to contain traces of melamine.
“It’s important to remember that there are no Chinese dairy products that meet our country's rigorous Grade A standards. If they are found in the United States, they have been imported illegally,” said Clay Detlefsen, IDFA vice president for regulatory affairs.
FDA is continuing to screen products and monitor reports of contamination from international sources. If FDA discovers food products that are adulterated because they contain melamine, “the agency will take appropriate actions to prevent the products from entering commerce,” an FDA news release states.
In related news, Senators Hillary Clinton (NY-D) and Russ Feingold (WI-D) last week introduced legislation calling for mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) for dairy products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s current COOL law, which will go into effect tomorrow, applies to meats, produce and nuts, but doesn’t include dairy products.
"Truth in labeling is critical, and the recent news of contaminated Chinese dairy products and the radically different safety and enforcement standards in China are clear examples why," said Feingold.
IDFA is currently reviewing the proposed legislation.
Members with questions about melamine and FDA's actions may contact Detlefsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.