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USDA to Test Meat and Poultry for Melamine

Dec 16, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP In the wake of the China melamine scandal, is reporting that the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will be testing some meats and poultry products, including, for example, baby food, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets.

The melamine scandal in China has affected foods that include baby formula, cheese, yogurt, milk teas and coffees, biscuits, and eggs and has prompted a variety of international recalls, sickened tens of thousands of children in China, and caused the deaths of at least six infants.  The FSIS took its most recent action following concerns that melamine contamination in dairy products has now spread to meat and poultry, said   "In light of recent disclosures of melamine being found in certain imported food products, FSIS has determined that it is prudent to do a small amount of sampling to see if there is any reason to be concerned about the presence of this chemical in meat and poultry products," the agency wrote, said also reports that FSIS officials say that federal investigators will, over the next three months, collect and test meat and poultry products, collecting 45 samples weekly from retail stores.  Food Product Design reports that testing will occur on domestically produced meat and poultry products quoting the FSIS notice as stating, “sampling will focus on those meat and poultry products that contain milk-derived ingredients such as non-fat dried milk, casein, whey, evaporated milk, and milk powder.”  The Seattle Times points out that the FSIS, in its testing notice, did not specify any food brand and did not “make any distinction between domestic or imported products.” The Seattle Times noted that testing is scheduled to begin in about two weeks.

The FSIS listed the following five types of products to be involved in the testing:

  •     Baby food that contains a significant amount of meat or poultry products;
  •     Cooked sausages, which includes hot dogs or frankfurters with and without cheese products;
  •     Breaded chicken, which includes bite-sized morsels or nuggets with and without cheese products;
  •     Meatballs; and
  •     Meat and poultry wrapped in dough and pizza, including calzones.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned melamine from human and pet food, the FDA recently stated that melamine levels at less than 2.5 parts per million (ppm) do not pose a health risk in foods, exept for infant formula, said  In infant formula, the level at which the FDA stated melamine does not pose a health risk was less than 1.0 ppm, added

Melamine is a toxic industrial chemical that, because of its high nitrogen content, can give the false impression in foods of being high in protein.  Used in the manufacture of plastics, fire retardants, and fertilizers, melamine has been found in a wide array of foods imported from China and, recently, in animal feed in that country, linking melamine contamination to livestock there.    

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