October 2, 2008

South Korea Says No Locally Sold Formula Milk Contains Melamine

Text of report in English by South Korean news agency Yonhap

SEOUL, Oct. 2 (Yonhap) - No domestically sold baby formula has been found to contain the industrial chemical that has so far killed four infants in China, the government said Thursday.

The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said it checked all 11 baby formulas that used imported lactoferrin protein from New Zealand, but found no traces of the harmful chemical melamine.

Lactoferrin is commonly used in baby formulas, powdered milk, baby food and dietary supplements. It is expensive and only used in very small amounts as an additive to strengthen the immune system.

The confirmation follows a report by the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) late Wednesday that said minute traces of melamine (1.9-3.3 parts per million) were found in lactoferrin imported from New Zeland-based Tatua Cooperative Dairy Co. But the health agency said that melamine was not detected in the milk products themselves.

The ministry said that it is in the process of checking all 642 milk-based products sold in the country. It reported that of the 125 checked so far, none have tested positive for melamine. Among those that passed the screening process are 34 brands of baby formula.

"As of Wednesday, companies have been ordered not to use lactoferrin made by Tatua, with detailed tests underway for all products made with the ingredient," an official said. He added that state laboratories are in the process of speeding up tests on the remaining dairy-based products to protect consumers from harmful chemicals.

Melamine is a nitrogen-based chemical widely used to make kitchen utensils that can pose serious health risks if ingested in large quantities. If added to dairy-based foods, the nitrogen can artificially increase protein levels, translating into higher profits for the manufacturer.

China, which has been rocked by the melamine scare, reported several deaths related to the tainted baby formula, while 54,000 others were hospitalized for kidney stones or other illnesses after ingesting the chemical.

Pasteur, a subsidiary of Korea Yakult Co., said that it used imported lactoferrin from New Zealand, with other companies claiming they used milk ingredients bought from Finland and the Netherlands.

Originally published by Yonhap news agency, Seoul, in English 0056 2 Oct 08.

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