October 2, 2008

Taiwan: Melamine Traces Found in Brand Name Milk Powder From China

Text of report in English by Taiwanese Central News Agency website

[By Emmanuelle Tzeng]

Taipei, Oct. 2 (CNA) - The Department of Health (DOH) announced Thursday that six kinds of Nestle milk powder manufactured in China were found to contain the toxic chemical melamine, and said it will request a recall of all 20 Nestle milk products on the market, even though the level of melamine found was too small to pose a health threat.

"The quantity of the chemical was very small, so the products are still safe and will not have any effects on health, but to protect consumers' rights and safety, we have asked the company to pull all its milk powder products from store shelves, " said DOH Minister Yeh Ching-chuan at a press conference.

AiHe said that most of the questionable Nestle products can be removed from store shelves within 24 hours.

A random test conducted by local health bureaus found 0.06 ppm (parts per million) to 0.85 ppm of melamine in the milk powder made between February 2007 and June 2008 by the Shuangcheng Nestle company located in Helongjiang province in northern China, Yeh said.

Nestle, which also produces Klim milk power, is one of Taiwan's leading brands of infant and adult milk products.

Yeh said that the milk powder had tested negative for melamine before the DOH decided to employ the most sensitive test - liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS).

LC/MS/MS is a high-sensitivity analytical technique used to detect and identify specific chemicals, and can detect melamine levels as low as 0.05 ppm.

The DOH announced Wednesday that all imported and locally made dairy products and food containing vegetable-based proteins should be tested using LC/MS/MS, and only those that test negative for melamine will be allowed on the market.

Nestle milk products were previously classified as safe, as they were tested by means of a less sensitive technique than LC/MS/MS, said Yeh, reiterating that the products will however not cause any damage to people's health.AiAi

Yeh also said that the DOH will invite experts from Japan, the United States and the European Union to Taiwan to exchange views on the food safety issue before next Sunday, in the hope that local regulations can be brought in line with international standards.Ai

A$The whole (made-in-China milk contamination) issue has highlighted the urgent need for Taiwan's meaningful participation in the Word Health Organization," Yeh stressed.

The Nestle products were allowed on the market in late September, along with the products of other 17 importers from China, after they were tested for melamine. Yeh did not rule out the possibility that the other 17 companies may face a similar problem.

The DOH had earlier altered the standard for acceptable levels of melamine content in food to 2.5 ppm.

But the revision caused panic among consumers, who agitated for a "zero content" standard, and led to the resignation of then-DOH Minister Lin Fang-yue last week. With Taiwan's safety standard for melamine content reset at "undetectable, " products that contain from 0.05 to 2.4 ppm of the industrial chemical may not be allowed on store shelves.

Melamine can cause kidney stones and kidney failure if consumed in sufficient quantity. Baby formula containing the toxic chemical has caused at least four deaths and sickened more than 54,000 in China.

Originally published by Central News Agency website, Taipei, in English 1101 2 Oct 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.