Health

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Imaginechina via AP
Crowds of Chinese parents holding their babies who were fed with Sanlu milk powder wait
for examination at a hospital in Chongqing, China, Sept. 18
2008. (AP)

China’s Melamine Trouble Extends to Animal Feed

November 03, 2008 03:00 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Chinese authorities are destroying tons of animal feed believed to be contaminated with melamine.

Authorities Say Melamine in Animal Feed Likely

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China's state media recently reported that the industrial chemical melamine is "probably being routinely added" to animal feed, according to the BBC. Some have viewed the report as a confession that melamine may be present in much more than milk, which has been blamed for sickening thousands of babies and killing at least four.

Investigators recently traced melamine in four brands of Chinese eggs, prompting speculation that animals in China are eating melamine-contaminated feed.

So far, Chinese authorities have destroyed more than 3,600 tons of animal feed contaminated with melamine, and closed 238 illegal feed makers, according to the International Herald Tribune.

While some of China's state newspapers suggested there is a widespread practice of adding melamine to feed, the China Daily newspaper said, "We cannot say for sure if the same chemical has made its way into other types of food."

China is one of the largest food exporters in the world, making concerns over food safety even more troubling to some individuals.

"It is illegal for any individual or any enterprise to add melamine into feed, and we will crack down uncompromisingly on melamine," Wang Zhicai, director of the animal husbandry and livestock bureau at the Agriculture Ministry, said at a news conference.

Children Affected by Milk Contamination

In October, the Chinese ministry offered a partial update of its official victim figures for the milk scare. As of Sept. 21, the official number of children hospitalized for melamine poisoning was at 13,371, reported Agence France-Presse. There were 10,666 children who remained hospitalized by Oct. 9, while 36,144 were allowed to return to their homes.

Thousands of others have received outpatient care, but a health ministry spokeswoman told AFP on Thursday that they do not have updated figures on outpatients. On Sept. 21, it was reported that 39,965 children received outpatient care.

Ministry officials also said that while they do have updated figures for the total number of children affected so far by the milk scare, they will not make the information public.

Reuters reported that according to its analysis of local media reports across China, the number of affected children has reached almost 94,000—almost double the number of the ministry's last official count.

Despite the alarming numbers coming from all parts of the country, Chinese officials say that the epidemic is under control and that melamine has not been found in liquid milk in recent tests.

Background: Chinese milk scare

The FDA has recalled Chinese candies, instant coffee and tea because they contained milk products potentially contaminated with a harmful industrial chemical called melamine. Although Utah officials ordered all store owners to take the products off the shelves, Utah was not listed on the FDA press release as a state that sold the product, causing some confusion.
The manufacturer of White Rabbit candy, the Bright Food Group, began investigating its product after the officials in Singapore warned consumers against buying the candy because it contained melamine.

The laboratory tests found that the candies contained more than the permissible 135 parts of melamine per million.

After thousands of infants in China became sick from contaminated formula, a worldwide concern over Chinese milk products developed. Some countries banned dairy imports from China, but at the time, authorities had only begun to consider the possibility that other products, such as candies, cakes and creams would also be contaminated.

Related Topic: Chinese pet food and toy scares

In 2007, investigators found that the Chinese manufacturers had been deliberately adding melamine to pet food, causing the deaths of some pets. The product was added to falsely boost the results of protein tests for the product.

Later that year, parents reacted with alarm as Chinese toys were recalled in massive numbers. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission discovered that 4 million Chinese-made Aqua Dots toys contained a chemical that, if ingested, can turn into the date rape drug GHB, a chemical that can induce seizures or a coma. At least two children fell into a comatose state after coming into contact with Aqua Dots.
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