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Codex regulation ‘bolts the door’ on infant milk melamine contamination

By Mark Astley , 05-Jul-2012

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has set new maximum limits for melamine in liquid infant milk in an effort to ‘bolt-up’ regulations and prevent a repeat of the 2008 Chinese scandal caused by the chemical.

Under the agreed regulation, Codex has set a maximum limit of 0.15mg/kg for melamine in liquid infant milk – following in the footsteps of an earlier regulation on melamine levels in powdered infant formula adopted two years ago.

In the wake of the 2008 melamine-tainted infant formula scandal in China, Codex adopted a maximum melamine level of 1mg/kg for powdered infant formula.

Codex, which is jointly run by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), sets international food safety and quality standards. In many cases these standards are adopted as a basis for national legislation.

The melamine regulation is just one of four agreed at the Codex meeting in Rome, which began earlier this week.

Bolted the door

An FAO spokesman told FoodQualityNews.com that Codex hopes to tie-up all the loose ends surrounding concerns about melamine through the issue of this regulation.

“This regulation covers liquid milk; powdered milk was done a couple of years ago. Through this regulation we’ve completely bolted the door,” said the FAO source.

The regulation issue follows almost five years of problems surrounding the illegal use of melamine as an apparent tool to increase the protein content of food products including infant formula and milk powder.

In 2008, six babies died and around 300,000 people were sickened in China after consuming melamine-tainted powdered infant formula.

“The initial regulation was adopted in very fast time, precisely because of the scandal in China. These concerns have led to the creation of regulations to make food safer for consumers.”

The FAO spokesman confirmed that an agreement on maximum limits of melamine in liquid infant milk had been a priority, adding that the organisation fully expects it to be applied around the world.

“These are all voluntary guidelines, so it depends on the urgency of each government. But we expect them to pick this one up very quickly,” he added.

Maximum limits

Codex has also announced a further three new regulations, establishing maximum limits and controls for pre-cut melon, molluscs and dried figs.

It recommended that pre-cut melons be packaged and refrigerated before distribution at temperatures of 4⁰c or less. This follows concerns about the safety of the product, which has been linked to a number of Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks.

At the meeting, which will run until 7 July 2012, Codex members also discussed the presence of aflatoxins in dried figs – setting a maximum limit of 10mg/kg, along with details of how to sample the product for the toxin.

A set of preventive hygiene measures aimed at controlling foodborne viruses, such as hepatitis A and norovirus, in mussels and oysters have also been established.

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