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Testing method speeds up detection of melamine

By Ahmed ElAmin , 13-Jun-2007

A new food contaminant testing method for melamine and cyanuric acid decreases the time it takes to get accurate results for meats, its developer claims.

Reducing the time such tests can be analysed could reduce delays in shipments waiting on results and improve recall effectiveness if products have already left the plant. Melamine was found to have contaminated pet food in North America this year and by extension animal feed. The scare led to concerns over ingredients sourced from China and increased testing of those products both for human and animal consumption. Applied Biosystems and MDS Sciex have jointly released the kit, which they claim will help laboratories and food manufacturers improve safety. Scientists are now concerned that crystals formed from melamine and cyanuric acid, as identified in the kidneys of several pets that died in the incident, could similarly affect animals for human consumption, such as chickens or pigs. The method is based on liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC/MS). It reduces testing time to to less than six minutes from the 30 minutes required by current systems, they claim. "The new method is the first commercially available method to test for both contaminants simultaneously with this advanced technology," they stated. The new method is delivered through Cliquid software for routine food testing. Laboratories routinely use Cliquid software to also test for pesticides, dyes and mould-related toxins, as well as chemical and antibiotic residues. Following recent scares over food contaminated with the banned substance melamine, a number of processors including Nutracea, Mission Foods and Tyson Foods have announced that their ingredients are not, or will no longer be sourced from China.


Hundreds of dogs and cats either died or suffered health problems as a result of the contamination. The scare widened in the US after it was found to have entered the human food chain after pet food scrap was used as a feed supplement at a number of hog and chicken farms.


Melamine is an industrial chemical found in plastics. The US found that the chemical had been fraudulently added to wheat gluten and rice protein from China. The country has now banned its exporters from using the chemical as an additive to boost protein levels in feeds.

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