F.D.A. Detains Chinese Imports for Testing
(New York Times)
By GARDINER HARRIS and ANDREW MARTIN
Candy, snacks, bakery products, pet food and other Chinese products that contain milk will be detained at the border until tests prove that they are not contaminated, the federal government announced Thursday.
The Food and Drug Administration said it issued the alert
because of concern about such products being contaminated with the toxic
chemical melamine. It was discovered in infant formula in September and has
sickened more than 50,000 infants in
Since that time, melamine has been found in a wide range
of other products, including milk, eggs and fish feed. As a result, companies
“We’re taking this action because it’s the right thing to do for the public health,” said Dr. Steven Solomon, a deputy associate F.D.A. commissioner.
But consumer advocates said the agency’s action was too little and too late.
“Although F.D.A.’s action today is a step in the right direction, it does not do enough to ensure consumer safety, especially since melamine contamination in Chinese products continues to broaden,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.
As a result of the latest alert, Chinese products that contain milk or milk powder will automatically be detained at the border until the manufacturer or its customer has the product tested and it is found to be free of contamination, or they show documentation indicating that the product does not contain milk or milk-derived ingredients.
“The burden shifts to the importer,” Dr. Solomon said.
F.D.A. analyses have detected melamine and cyanuric acid, another contaminant, in “a number of products that contain milk or milk-derived ingredients, including candy and beverages,” according to an alert that the agency sent to field personnel. The alert also noted that inspectors in more than 13 other countries had discovered melamine in Chinese products including milk, yogurt, frozen desserts, biscuits, chocolates and cookies.
The agency routinely blocks imports of individual food
products, but it is rare for it to block an entire category of one country’s
foods. Last year, the F.D.A. blocked five types of farm-raised seafood as
well as vegetable protein from
Unscrupulous food and feed dealers in
Dr. Solomon said the alert was likely to apply mostly to specialty products sold in Asian markets. But Benjamin England, a former lawyer at the agency, described the latest alert as “massive” and said it could affect “a tremendous amount of goods.”
“It’s going to jam the ports up all the way up the supply
chain,” said Mr.
As a result of the earlier alerts on seafood and vegetable
protein, many private laboratories that perform product tests for F.D.A.
review already have long waiting lists, Mr.
The import alert could extend to Chinese shrimp, Mr.
The effect of the alert is likely to be long-lasting, Mr.
“It’s impossible to get off the alert list,” Mr.
“Today’s F.D.A. Import Alert on dairy products from
Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, criticized the agency’s response, saying it should have acted sooner. The import alert should include egg and fish products “given that animal feed has been found to be contaminated with melamine,” she said in a release.
“Clearly, the problems involving melamine in
The import detention order comes at a delicate time.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt and Dr. Andrew C.
von Eschenbach, commissioner of the F.D.A. will
travel next week to
Michael Herndon, an agency spokesman, said the new import order “shouldn’t affect the opening of F.D.A. offices.” 11-14-08
Copyright (C) All rights reserved under FoodHACCP.com
If you have any comments, please send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org