Chinese regulators said Friday that they were widening their investigation into contaminated food amid growing signs that an industrial chemical called melamine had leached into the nation’s animal feed supplies, posing even deeper health risks to consumers after the recent tainted milk scandal.
By David Barboza
The New York Times
The announcement came after food safety tests earlier this week found that eggs produced in three different provinces in China were contaminated with melamine, a chemical that is blamed for causing kidney stones and renal failure in infants. The tests have led to recalls of eggs and consumer warnings.
The reports are another serious blow to China’s agriculture industry, which is already struggling to cope with its worst food safety scandal in decades after melamine tainted milk supplies sickened over 50,000 children, caused at least four deaths and led to global recalls of goods produced with Chinese dairy products earlier this fall.
Above: A worker placed a notice that read “No melamine contained” on egg crates at a major eggs production factory in suburban Beijing on Friday. Photo by Andy Wong, Associated Press.
The cases are fueling global concerns about contaminated Chinese food. In Hong Kong, food safety officials announced this week that they would be testing a wider variety of foods for melamine, including vegetables, flour and meat products.
But food safety experts have also asked consumers to remain calm because while melamine-tainted milk has hospitalized thousands in China, there are no known cases thus far of consumers becoming seriously ill from eating melamine-tainted eggs.
Hong Kong officials said melamine was found in higher than permissible levels in eggs imported from China, but that a child would have to eat about two dozen eggs in a single day to become ill.
Still, if eggs, milk and animal feed supplies are tainted, there is the specter of an even wider array of foods that could come under scrutiny for contamination, everything from pork and chicken supplies to bread, biscuits, eggs, cakes and seafood.
While China is not a major exporter of dairy products, it has one of the world’s fastest-growing dairy industries and it is also one of the world’s largest exporters of food and food ingredients, including meats, seafood, beverages and vitamins.