The AFP reports,
China has launched a probe into food safety after the new discovery of products laced with melamine, a chemical blamed for the deaths of six babies in a huge scandal in 2008, state media said Tuesday.
In the latest cases, some companies were found to have made products using melamine-contaminated milk powder that was recalled after the scandal but found its way back on to the market, the official People’s Daily reported.
At a weekend meeting on food safety issues hosted by Health Minister Chen Zhu, officials decided to launch and inspection campaign "to thoroughly check potential problems in food safety," the newspaper said.
"There are still some businesses and individuals that ignore the safety and health of the public and are blinded by greed," it added.
According to the report, the companies involved in the fresh melamine scandal were based in several parts of China, including Shanghai and the northeastern province of Liaoning.
In the latest reported case, authorities in the southwestern province of Guizhou found that some products contained levels of the industrial chemical above allowable limits.
Melamine is a nitrogen rich compound (66% nitrogen) that is specifically used to increase the protein content of food products, namely milk. Upon doing so, one can dilute their product with water thereby increasing profits, essentially food adulteration for economic gain. The problem however, is when melamine combines with cyanuric acid causing crystallization in the kidneys ultimately leading to kidney failure and death.
In 2008, adulteration of infant formula lead to the deaths of six children in China and sickened nearly 300,000 others. Melamine is not approved for direct addition to human or animal foods2 and should therefore be kept out of the food chain.
- 1. U.S. Food And Drug Administration. Melamine Contamination in China. Januuary 5, 2009. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm179005.html.
- 2. Mermelstein, N. Analyzing for Melamine. Journal of Food Technology. February, 2009.
The last thing I want to do is shut a restaurant down during the Christmas season but when one encounters multiple critical food violations, my hands are tied. An immediate closure was issued on a local restaurant due to improper food holding temperatures, inadequate dishwashing as pots/pans were merely rinsed with water, potential cross contamination issues in the cooler, and the list continues. It is important to note that there was a manger on duty that had successfully completed the food handlers’ course and would therefore in theory be aware of these critical issues. At any rate, I rolled up my sleeves, threw on my hair net and proceeded to physically show the foodservice staff how to properly wash pots/pans via the 3 compartment sink method. Also went over ice baths to rapidly cool foods, preparing sanitizer solutions, and how to use a digital tip sensitive thermometer, supplied by me of course because they didn’t have one. After training on-site, it was up to the staff to show me what they have learned without sitting down and writing an exam, which I feel is pointless.
A number of Health Departments are consistently struggling with staffing issues resulting in less than par health inspections. I would rather spend the time and perform a quality health inspection by incorporating on-site training rather than being concerned with the quantity of restaurants inspected.
The Tomah Journal writes:
In most circumstances, the test of whether an activity should be illegal isn’t whether it creates harm, but whether the cost of eradicating the harm is exceeded by enforcement costs.
Many activities — drunk driving, manufacturing methamphetamine, hunting from the side of the road, dumping untreated sewage — are worth the cost of enforcement. But is selling raw milk? Two area lawmakers don’t think so, and they’re probably right.
State Rep. Chris Danou (D-Trempealeau) and state Sen. Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls) have introduced legislation that would legalize on-farm sales of raw milk in Wisconsin. Critics claim that raw milk is unsafe, and that’s true in the narrowest literal sense. According to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 39 raw milk-related bacterial outbreaks in the United States between 1998 and 2005 sickened 831 people, hospitalized 66 and killed one. In Wisconsin, bacterial outbreaks linked to unpasteurized milk sickened 189 people and hospitalized three.
In the large scheme of things, however, those aren’t large numbers. Last year, 23 people died in Wisconsin snowmobile accidents, and nobody suggests banning snowmobiles.
The benefits of raw milk are economic. Raw milk has a passionate, if small, base of consumers who are willing to pay farmers top dollar. In a struggling economy when it’s difficult for dairy farmers to make ends meet, it’s an economic boost that can’t be easily dismissed.
Most Americans grew up with pasteurized milk, and in an easily grossed-out food culture like ours (how many of us eat beef tongue, sweetbreads or chicken gizzards?) the prospect of raw milk as a widely consumed commodity appears very slim. And there’s no doubt that if a consumer wants to follow a safety-first approach to food consumption, pasteurized milk is the logical option. But if consumers want to take a moderate risk and consume raw milk, it’s not worth the resources of the state to tell them they can’t. Wisconsin has bigger law enforcement problems than people who take their chances.
How many kids have to get sick and die from consuming unpasteurized milk? If the consumer wants to take the risk and consume such a product, fine, just don’t impose it on your kids and don’t say you weren’t informed.
I remember quite fondly when I worked in the Provincial Lab in Alberta and was testing unpasteurized milk that had made a number people sick. I was shocked from the number of positive bacterial cultures, in particular, Campylobacter jejuni, a nasty foodborne pathogen.