FDA Forces Importers to Prove Shipments Contain No Melamine After Positive Tests
(Wall Street Journal, DC)
By JANE ZHANG and ALICIA MUNDY
The Food and Drug Administration has restricted the entry
of all food products from
The FDA directive requires importers to prove their food
and drink shipments don't contain the industrial chemical melamine before
they can be released to
The Chinese products being held in
An FDA official said the agency acted after about 60 tests of such products as candy and crackers. It found traces of melamine in some and a melamine-related compound in others. He said the agency hasn't received reports of illnesses linked to melamine in food.
The timing of the move was awkward, coinciding with a
meeting next week between Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt
and top Chinese officials in
The FDA official said
Ben England, a former FDA official who now advises Chinese
producers, said the U.S. government action could drive up prices, because
foods made with milk, as well as any other foods in the same shipping
container, would be held in port, pending clearance. "This will stop a
lot of cargo anywhere from six weeks to three months," said Mr.
The FDA disagreed and said the percentage of food subject to the import alert is small. "We do not expect a significant impact on trade," a spokesman said.
The agency said it won't release the imported food unless an independent laboratory verifies that representative samples contain no melamine or cyanuric acid, a melamine derivative. The products can also be released if labels or manufacturing records show they don't contain milk.
The products tested by the FDA are found mostly in ethnic stores, but some could be sold at mainstream supermarkets, said Steve Solomon, the FDA's deputy associate commissioner for compliance policy.
This isn't the first time food from
Melamine in infant formula has sickened more than 53,000
"The FDA should have acted sooner to ban these milk products from entering the country," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.), a critic of the agency who has proposed stripping it of its responsibility for regulating food. "It is disappointing that the ban did not apply to egg and fish products, given that animal feed has been found to be contaminated with melamine."
The FDA alert said some Chinese producers watered down milk and then added melamine to increase the nitrogen content, giving the appearance of normal protein levels in tests. Much of it ended up in infant formula and dried milk powder used in making other food products.
More than 13 countries in Asia and elsewhere have found
melamine-contaminated ingredients from
Among regulators, a consensus has emerged that melamine
can be safely consumed in concentrations of less than 2.5 parts per million.
Hong Kong has tested thousands of products for melamine because it imports
much of its food from mainland
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