Source of Article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/sep/29/sciencenews
British ports will begin
inspecting air freight and shipments of imported food from tomorrow in a major
food safety operation triggered by the contaminated milk scandal in
The Food Standards Agency put more than 80 ports and airports on alert yesterday and ordered health officials to intercept and test any food products arriving via China that contain more than 15% milk, including cakes, chocolate, biscuits, bread and protein drinks.
The action followed moves by the
European Food Standards Agency last week to prevent dairy products contaminated
with the industrial chemical melamine entering member states. Baby formula
contaminated with melamine has killed at least four children in
Europe, meanwhile, had already
banned all imports of animal products, including baby formula, from
Officials at the Food Standards Agency met with importers yesterday to agree a list of foods that port health authorities must check consignments for. Any product with more than 15% milk content must be tested for melamine, along with foods where the milk content cannot be established.
Importers who have food on route
Impounded food must be sent for
independent testing at laboratories such as the government contractor, the LGC
in Teddington near
Last night, chief port health
officials said the scale of the operation could be vast, particularly at key
"Food products tend to come in mixed packages, so if we have to start unpacking containers, it could become a very big job. There's also a lot of food labelling that doesn't give percentages of ingredients," said one port authority official.
Tests for melamine usually take one to two days, but delays could run into weeks if lab build-up backlogs of food that requires testing.
At the weekend, the World Health Organisation said the devastating impact of the
Melamine was added to baby formula to bulk it up, but in some cases reached levels 100 times higher than a baby can tolerate. The chemical, used to make plastics and foams, can cause bladder and kidney stones when ingested.
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