October 28, 2008


US to keep close eye on China's food after melamine scare

Food imports from China should remain suspect and monitored closely for years to come after the latest discovery that Chinese eggs are contaminated with the deadly melamine chemical, US Representative Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said Monday (October 27, 2008).


"The avalanche of tainted products from China has ceased being a mere safety issues and is on the verge of becoming a major crisis," DeLauro said in a statement. "The latest development involving eggs tainted with melamine is even more disturbing because of the possibility of it being traced to feed given to chickens."


Melamine is a toxic chemical used in plastics and fertiliser.


Last year tens of thousands of hogs and millions of chickens in the US were quarantined or held back from the US market after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed that the livestock had been fed melamine-tainted pet food. FDA and USDA officials later said testing proved that human health was not threatened by livestock that ate the contaminated feed.


Livestock operations often feed animals salvaged pet food deemed unfit for pets. The link to livestock was discovered last year when US companies recalled pet food after it was discovered that ingredients imported from China were tainted with melamine. At the same time Bush administration officials were talking with Chinese government officials about allowing for Chinese poultry imports.


DeLauro has been a staunch opponent of the Bush administration's attempt to open the US market to poultry imports from China.


"If melamine was intentionally added to animal feed in China, it could result in poisonous beef, chicken, and seafood being shipped all over the world," DeLauro said. "This has direct safety implications to American consumers if China is allowed to ship poultry products to the US as the Bush Administration is proposing."


Earlier this year melamine-contaminated dairy products sickened and killed infants in China. FDA officials said that no contaminated baby formula was legally imported into the US from China but that other dairy products that tested positive were brought in. The FDA last month released a list of seven Mr. Brown coffee or tea products produced by China's Shandong Duqing Inc., "due to possible contamination with melamine."


"We must be constantly vigilant about monitoring the food products being imported into the US from China because it is likely that it will take several years before the Chinese government can follow through with their promise to ensure the safety of their food supply," DeLauro said. "I will continue to prevent the USDA from moving forward with any proposal that would allow China to export poultry products to the US until China demonstrates legitimate progress in improving its food safety system."


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