UPDATED: 20 October 2008
The no 1 question that I received from this post would be: Does product —– contain melamine?
One reader even wrote to me to complain about Brand X that he claimed he has been using for 20++ years. He wrote that he is positive the recent batch that he bought is contaminated with melamine coz it tastes ‘plasticky’. He had bought several cans from different stores and it all tasted the same. He wants to sue the company that manufactures Brand X and call a press conference on this matter and asked me for assistance.
I think we are missing the point. First of all, we need to understand what exactly happened in China. This is my explanation in the simplest way possible. In order to make bigger profits, some irresponsible parties diluted raw milk that their farms produce with water. But this would also dilute its nutritional content; so in order to ‘cheat’ the standard milk test for protein content, they deliberately and illegally added melamine into the milk. Because melamine is high in nitrogen, the standard test would give a false protein content result. Unfortunately, the contaminated milk are supplied to milk manufacturers; and we know what happened next.
Second of all, the Govt of Malaysia does not allow the import of milk from China. However, the importation of milk-based foods and products from China are allowed provided the milk used as the ingredient is from Australia, NZ, Netherlands or USA. This is a decision made long time ago by our Department of Veterinary Services due to China’s historical past of having foot & mouth disease in cattle. So, even if the product comes from China, the milk used as its ingredient is not. The short of it, milk products in Malaysia, yes even those imported from China, is safe.
But how come there are products in the UNsafe list, you say. The products in the unsafe list are those that are tested and do not conform to the acceptable level by MOH. It doesn’t mean that the products were purposely made with milk contaminated with melamine; but simply that the melamine content of these products exceed the acceptable level of melamine in food. Traces of melamine can be found in food from contact with adhesives or packaging and health authorities around the world have recently came up with standards to ensure that these traces are within acceptable level.
In Malaysia, the acceptable level of melamine has been set at 1parts per million (ppm) for baby food and 2.5ppm for adult food products. For comparison, the highest level of melamine found in a contaminated product in China was 6,196ppm which is about 2,500 times higher than the acceptable level; while the highest level found in MOH’s unsafe list is 135ppm (White Rabbit Cream Candy).
In general terms, melamine is found throughout the food chain across the world in minute traces which do not represent any health risk for consumers. There is a generally accepted tolerable daily intake of melamine in food in the EU (0.5mg/kg of body weight/day) and in the US (0.63mg/kg of body weight/day). The lowest level of melamine traces which can be measured by commonly-used testing equipment (2 ppm) is 20 times below these internationally-recognised safety limits. In other words, based on this 2 ppm value, a three year-old child would have to consume over 40 litres of milk every day to exceed these safety limits.
Listed below is the latest FAQ on melamine from Asia Food Information Centre (AFIC – in English) and Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH – in Bahasa Malaysia); as well as the unsafe products list.
FAQ on melamine by Asia Food Information Centre
List of products not involved in melamine in milk contamination scare by MOH
List of products imported from China that have been tested and declared SAFE by MOH
List of products imported from China that have been tested and declared UNSAFE by MOH
If you would like to call MOH, get in touch with the Melamine Operation Room at Tel: 03 – 8883 3655 & 03 – 8883 3503 (8.00am – 5.00pm daily including public holidays).
The main website would be here: Food Safety & Quality Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia. Some information and documents are only available in Bahasa Malaysia.
24/9/2008: This is the latest Malaysia’s Safe Products List published by Food Safety and Quality Division (FSQ), Ministry of Health (in pdf format) on 23/9/2008. I will post further updates on the safe list as and when new ones come out.
For further info, press statements, FAQs, please go to the FSQ’s website here:
The sites are experiencing heavy traffic so it may be slow to load.
If you would like to call them, get in touch with the Melamine Operation Room at Tel: 03 – 8883 3655 & 03 – 8883 3503 (8.00am – 5.00pm daily including public holidays).
Please don’t listen to rumours or the sms-es that are going around. Always go to a verifiable & reliable source for information so that you can make an informed decision. If in doubt, check and double check.