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Melamine-Tainted Chinese Candy Sold in U.S.

Sep 25, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

New Zealand is reporting that one of China's most popular candies—typically sold at Asian markets in the United States—contains dangerous levels of melamine, a toxic industrial chemical.

Melamine is a trimer of cyanamide; a metabolite of cyromazine, a pesticide; and is a major component in Pigment Yellow 150, an ink and plastics colorant.  Melamine is used to create thermosetting plastics, fertilizers, fire retardants, cleaning products, countertops, dry erase boards, fabrics, glues, housewares, and high-resistance concrete.  Melamine is also used to reduce water contents in concrete to make it longer lasting and more flexible.  Most notably, melamine has made the news on a number of recent occasions because of its ability to seemingly increase protein contents in food, especially foods such as watered-down milk products, which has been the case in the extensive and ongoing contamination scandal in China, in which several babies have died and 53,000 children have been sickened.  Studies confirm that ingestion of melamine may lead to reproductive damage, bladder stones, kidney stones, and bladder cancer.

Now, as part of that scandal, New Zealand Food Safety Authority testing revealed that White Rabbit Creamy Candies contain 180 parts per million of melamine.  The agency's Website described the contamination as "unacceptably high" and is advising consumers to avoid the candy.  The melamine levels found in the candies were high enough to cause health problems, such as kidney stones, in some consumers, according to the food agency.  The candies are manufactured in Shanghai by Shanghai Guan Sheng Yuan Food.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is sampling and testing White Rabbit Creamy Candies and other Chinese "milk-derived ingredients and finished food products containing milk," such as candies, desserts, and beverages, according to FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek, who advised that no contaminated products have yet been found on U.S. store shelves.  White Rabbit Creamy Candies are a chewy, milky taffy, that is delivered in small cylinders, about half the size of a AA battery.  The candies are wrapped in a white waxed paper and its ingredients are corn starch syrup, cane sugar, butter, and milk.

While Susan Snyder Smith of the National Confectioners Association in Vienna, Virgina says that candy from China comprises about 0.7% of the candy sold in the United States, there are no figures for how much White Rabbit Creamy Candy is sold here.

In 2007, a pet food recall was initiated by a variety of pet food manufacturers over reports of contamination that caused serious illnesses or deaths in some pets.  The FDA confirmed that white granular melamine was found in the pet food, imported from a single source in China, as well as in crystalline form in the kidneys and in urine of the affected animals; vegetable protein imported from China was later implicated.  Adding melamine scrap to animal feed is widespread in China and is done for the same reasons it is done to milk products there:  To make it appear that the tainted food has higher protein levels than it actually does.


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