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CFIA caps melamine in Chinese milk imports

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has set interim standards to limit the amount of melamine in imported foods that contain milk or milk products from China.

CFIA announced in a memo to importers Monday that it will require documentation to prove product safety.

Any imports of baby food or infant formula from anywhere outside Canada will now require documentation “attesting that the product and its milk ingredients were not sourced from China.”

Any infant formula, baby food or “sole-source nutrition products” including meal replacement products that contain milk or milk-derived ingredients from China will require documentation of analysis to show that its combined level of melamine and cyanuric acid is below Health Canada’s interim standard of 1.0 part per million (ppm).

Any other foods imported from China that contain milk or milk-derived ingredients will require documentation of analysis showing its combined level of melamine and cyanuric acid is below the Health Canada standard of 2.5 ppm. Cyanuric acid is a compound usually found together with melamine.

CFIA’s move follows the latest scandal over melamine contamination in Chinese food products, this time in the dairy industry, leading to another wave of food recalls across Canada and worldwide, following last year’s massive pet food recalls. In that case, wheat gluten used as a protein filler in pet foods was spiked with melamine.

As of Sunday, four young children in China are reported dead and thousands more sickened from drinking melamine-laced milk since last month. The compound, which in high levels causes kidney damage, has been known to be used to falsify protein levels in diluted milk.

Health Canada’s interim standards make very small allowances for melamine that finds its way into food through “environmental exposure” such as in packaging or processing, rather than through deliberate spiking.

“The presence of low levels in food is not indicative of adulteration and at such levels does not pose a health risk,” CFIA said Monday. “In other words, detection of melamine in a food product does not automatically indicate that there is a risk to human health.”

Health Canada’s policy remains that levels of potential contaminants in infant foods should be kept as low as reasonably achievable, CFIA said.

CFIA and Health Canada’s interim standards follow the approach used by other food regulatory agencies in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S., CFIA said. But if new scientific evidence becomes available, Health Canada said it would review its risk assessment and its interim standards.

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