News 323 views last update:6 Aug 2012

FDA sets melamine safety threshold

The Food and Drug Administration in the US is not aiming at a zero tolerance for melamine in foods. Consuming a very small amount of the chemical poses no serious risk it said.

FDA officials said that the only exception for zero tolerance is for melamine in baby formula, which has sickened more than 54,000 infants in China. The agency said it was unable to determine what a safe amount of melamine in formula might be.

The FDA set 2.5 parts per million as the maximum "tolerable" amount of melamine that could be safely consumed in other foods. But Rosa DeLauro, head of a House subcommittee that oversees FDA funding, criticized the agency for saying there could be safe levels of melamine in foods.

"While other countries throughout the world, including the European Union, are acting to ban melamine-contaminated products from China, the FDA has chosen to establish an acceptable level for melamine in food in an attempt to convince consumers that it is not harmful," DeLauro said in a statement.

"Not only is this is an insult to consumers, but it would appear that the FDA is condoning the intentional contamination of foods." The FDA guidelines were issued to help federal and state investigators checking for contaminated Chinese products as they enter the country and in Asian grocery stores.

Stephen Sundlof, FDA's director for food safety and applied nutrition said the agency's goal is to identify products with potentially dangerous levels of melamine, rather than to find each small instance of contamination.

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