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Melamine Commonly Added to Feed, Says Report

by 5m Editor
31 October 2008, at 11:00am

CHINA - Companies have been adding melamine to feed for 7 or 8 years to boost protein levels, it has emerged. A professor of human nutrition says people consuming products from animals receiving contaminated feed are unlikely to become ill.

The industrial chemical, melamine, is commonly added to animal feed in China to fake higher protein levels, according to Star Telegram.

It reported state media on 30 October, offering what appeared to be a tacit admission by the government that the food supply could be rife with contamination.

The Nanfang Daily said it is an 'open secret' in the industry that melamine scrap is being repackaged into an inexpensive product called "protein powder" that is sold to food suppliers.

Official web sites also carried the story.

Four brands of Chinese eggs have been found to be tainted with melamine, and agriculture officials speculated that the source was adulterated feed given to hens. No illnesses have been linked to eggs. But similar contamination of milk and other dairy products sent tens of thousands of Chinese children to the hospital and was linked to four infant deaths.

Melamine, a chemical used in plastics and fertilizer manufacturing, is high in nitrogen, and most protein tests check a food product's nitrogen level.

Nanfang Daily said that chemical plants used to pay companies to treat and dispose of melamine scrap but that about five years ago they began selling it to manufacturers that repackaged it as 'protein powder'.

Initially, the inexpensive powder was used to give the impression of higher protein levels in fish feed. Then companies started adding it to feed for cattle and poultry, the report said, citing an unidentified chemical industry expert.

"The effect far more exceeds the milk powder scandal," the newspaper said.

The account was backed up by a manager reached by The Associated Press at a feed company based in central Henan province. He said the practice has been going on even longer than reported — seven or eight years.

"It's the suppliers who do it to raise the protein level because we put in the contract a requirement for a certain level of protein," the manager said.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, said humans are unlikely to get sick from eating meat from animals raised on melamine-tainted feed.

But she told Star Telegram, "It shouldn't be in the food supply at all. It's fraudulent."

Further Reading

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5m Editor