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Melamine May Be In Chinese Seafood Imports

Dec 29, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Melamine Tainted Seafood China

Melamine Found In Chinese Fish Farms

Melamine has been found in dozens of products exported globally from China and now, it seems, experts are worried that seafood raised on Chinese fish farms might also be tainted with the industrial chemical, said MarketWatchNews, citing a Los Angeles Times report.  Among other foods that have made headlines in recent months a variety of milk teas and coffees, cocoas, yogurts, candies, cookies, biscuits, cheeses, eggs, and crackers, have all been found to be tainted with melamine, prompting international recalls.    Now, scientists and consumer advocates are worried that China-raised seafood has joined the ever-expanding list of dangerous foods produced in that country.

Melamine is an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of fertilizer, fire retardants, and plastics and has been at the center of a global scandal originating in China over the adulteration of a growing array of food products with a variety of dangerous contaminants.  In particular, melamine has been used in that country to falsify protein levels.  

Melamine Contains High Nitrogen

Because melamine contains such high nitrogen contents, it can be used to make certain foods—for instance intentionally diluted milk products—appear high in protein in certain tests, enabling producers and manufacturers to pass off sub-standard products as protein-rich.  In sufficient quantities, ingesting melamine can cause kidney problems, including kidney stones and kidney failure, and in the case of at least six children, death.  Earlier this year, tens of thousands of Chinese babies were reported sickened, hospitalized, or dead as a result of melamine-tainted forumula.  Now, reports issued by the Chinese government confirm that the original figures stating that 50,000 children were sickened by melamine-contaminated formula has been updated to state that the figure was actually closer to 300,000 instances of children and babies becoming sick with melamine-related illnesses, such as urinary and kidney ailments, reports SuperMarketNews.

Now, reports are revealing that melamine is “routinely” added to fish feed in the Chinese aquaculture industry for the same reasons as it was added to dairy products, to falsify protein levels, according to the SuperMarketNews report.  As with other contaminants affecting seafood, melamine remains in the fish who have ingested the melamine-tainted feed,   MarketWatchNews said that according to the LA Times report, recent studies conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Animal Drugs Research Center found disturbing levels of melamine in certain fish.  The report states that the FDA’s Animal Drugs Research Center found that trout, tilapia, and catfish which were raised on melamine-tainted feed contained concentrations of the toxic chemical of up to a whopping 200 parts per million (ppm), which is over 80 times the maximum “tolerable” level the FDA has set for safe human consumption, said MarketWatch.

MarketWatch also noted that while some United States fish importers do conduct voluntary melamine tests, there is no FDA requirement in place for such testing.  Meanwhile, the FDA, in its own laboratory findings regarding a similar finding of melamine in catfish last year, said:  “Because animals may eat food contaminated with melamine residues, there is a need for analytical methods to determine melamine residues that may be present in animal tissues.”  Melamine is not approved by the U.S. FDA for use in food or animal feed.

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