UN sets limits of melamine in infant formula following scandal in China
Li Xiaoquan, right, holds up a photo of his twin daughters at their home in Liti village, near Runan, central China's Henan province, on Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. One of the twins, who had been drinking a brand of milk formula linked to the melamine scandal, died from kidney failure. (AP / Ng Han Guan)
Published Wednesday, July 4, 2012 10:44AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 4, 2012 2:22PM EDT
ROME -- A UN commission has set a recommended limit on the amount of melamine allowed in liquid infant formula after a 2008 scandal in China in which six babies died from drinking formula and milk products containing the industrial chemical.
Two years ago, the UN food security body known as the Codex Alimentarius Commission set the maximum limit of melamine in powdered infant formula at 1 milligram per kilogram of formula. On Wednesday, the commission said it had adopted a limit for liquid formula at 0.15 milligrams/kilogram.
The recommendations are not binding. The commission, which is jointly run by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, is made up of 184 government representatives plus the European Commission.
Melamine is used to make dishes and kitchenware, and trace amounts can sometimes get into food from packaging. In China, melamine was being added to watered-down milk to elevate protein levels. In addition to the six deaths, some 300,000 babies became sick after consuming the tainted formula and milk.
The UN commission also made recommendations to limit the spread of salmonella and listeria in pre-packaged melon slices. Codex said the exposed pulp from the fruit can become a breeding ground for bacteria and that the risk was increasing since melon is increasingly being sold in easy-to-eat slices. It recommended that melon be wrapped quickly and refrigerated at 4 degrees Centigrade (39.2 Fahrenheit) or less.
And Codex issued a warning about dried figs: the fruit can host carcinogenic aflaxotoxins, which are produced by mould, if not stored properly. The commission agreed to limit the amount of aflaxotoxins in dried figs at 10 micrograms/kilogram.
The commission, which wraps up its meeting Saturday, is expected to make recommendations on a big issue in livestock circles: the use of growth-promoting veterinary drugs. The commission plans to set maximum residue limits for these drugs, though its members are deeply divided on the issue.