Melamine Found in Fish FeedNov 13, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
In what seems to be a never-ending melamine scandal out of China, Hong Kong safety officials have now found elevated levels of the toxic chemical in fish feed from the mainland there, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is reporting today. Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety said late Tuesday, according to the WSJ article, that “the fish feed contained 6.6 parts per million (ppm) of melamine, the chemical at the” core “of China's” newest and massive “tainted-milk scandal.” According to the WSJ, “like many other governments, Hong Kong limits melamine levels in food products to 2.5 ppm.” The Centre reported, according to the WSJ piece, that the tainted fish feed originated from the Fuzhou Haima Feed Company located in China's southeastern Fujian province.
The WSJ reported that “Hong Kong safety officials said the city's agricultural and fisheries department” advised fish farms to discontinue using the feed. Meanwhile, fish feed testing continues and officials advised they continue testing “milk, eggs, meat, and other products,” said the WSJ. Also, “separately, Hong Kong health officials said they were investigating the cases of two four-year-old Hong Kong girls” who were sickened with “kidney stones and who had also consumed melamine-tainted milk products and biscuits,” the WSJ reports. According the WSJ piece, both girls were treated and released, the city's Department of Health stated.
The WSJ pointed out that in 2007, “FDA officials said they” discovered “melamine in Canadian-made fish meal containing what was labeled as wheat gluten imported from China.” This discovery added to existing “tensions between the two countries over food safety” the WSJ pointed out. Since this newest scandal began, melamine has been discovered in a wider variety of foods containing dairy products such as yogurt, dairy drinks, milk teas and coffees, biscuits, cheese, candy, and ice cream. The scandal has also caused a series of international recalls and has wreaked significant damage to the dairy industry in China.
The chemical melamine has been blamed for the deaths of at least four infants and the hospitalization of tens of thousands more. And, according to a separate Associated Press report, nearly 1,300 children remain hospitalized over illnesses resulting from melamine tainting. Since the scandal first broke, attention has turned to other types of food and last month, Hong Kong officials found melamine in eggs, leading to concerns about melamine-tainted animal feed and the presence of the chemical in other parts of the food supply.
Melamine is an industrial chemical that has gained notoriety in recent years for its ability to cheat nutrition tests; the chemical was originally designed to make plastics, fertilizer, and fire retardants. Because melamine possesses high nitrogen contents, it can create the appearance in food of being high in protein and has been used in recent years to falsify protein levels in foods. In the current melamine-tainting scandal, the toxic chemical was added to watered-down baby formula to create the impression of high protein levels in the diluted milk products.
Melamine can cause kidney problems—including kidney stones and kidney failure—when ingested. At its height, the scandal caused the illnesses of some 54,000 children in China. Some dairy suppliers have been arrested and the Chinese government has dismissed some local and national officials for negligence.