Part I of II. What should grocery procurement professionals know about Melamine?

December 1st, 2008

The FDA opens and office in China and Melamine shows up in U.S. baby formula. Should we be concerned?

The FDA opens and office in China and Melamine shows up in U.S. baby formula. Should we be concerned?

The FDA has taken a positive step in trying to control the introduction of products that should not be included in food from reaching U.S. markets by opening an office in China. At the same time we hear that Melamine has been found in U.S. baby formula. This is a time that procurement professionals in the food distribution business need to be vigilant.

The following is for your education.

Just what is Melamine? According to Wikipedia, Melamine is an organic base and a trimer of cyanamide, with a 1, 3,5-triazine skeleton. Like cyanamide, it contains 66% nitrogen by mass and, if mixed with resins, has fire retardant properties due to its release of nitrogen gas when burned or charred, and has several other industrial uses. Sounds like something we should be including in our food products right? Further from Wikipedia, Melamine is sometimes illegally added to food products in order to increase the apparent protein content. Standard tests such as the Kjeldahl and Dumas tests estimate protein levels by measuring the nitrogen content, so they can be misled by adding nitrogen-rich compounds such as melamine.

Here’s what’s possible when Melamine is ingested.

The following information is taken from a Monday October 20th Yahoo news article By Gillian Wong a writer for the associated press.

Beijing – Some 1,500 dogs bred for their raccoon-like fur have died after eating feed tainted with melamine, a veterinarian said Monday, raising questions about how widespread the industrial chemical is in China’s food chain.

The revelation comes amid a crisis over dairy products tainted with melamine that has caused kidney stones in tens of thousands of Chinese children and has been linked to the deaths of four infants.

Melamine was also the product that caused the massive United States pet food recall during 2007. When discussing toxicity, Wikipedia tells us that Melamine is described as being “Harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Chronic exposure may cause cancer or reproductive damage.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the products that are purported to contain Melamine and the questions procurement professionals should ask in order to best mitigate your risk.

We appreciate and look forward to your comments.

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