China Milk Melamine Scandal Not Over


Melamine, often misspelled as Melanine, is a chemical very popular for its industrial applications. When mixed with formaldehyde, it can be formed and into a variety of shapes. Household products made of melamine include, plastic plates, kitchen utensils, laminates, flooring materials, kitchen cabinets, easy to assemble furniture and cleaning abrasives.

During the past several months, melamine came into the spotlight when it was revealed to have been found in food items which have milk as an ingredient.

The unusual demise of household pets in the United States (1997) made the US government initiate investigations that found melamine content in a number of animal food brands coming from China. It was revealed that melamine tainted food products, when ingested, can result in kidney failure.

As of today (2008), more than 54,000 people had gotten sick (in China) with approximately 12,000 becoming hospitalized and 4 infants dying after ingesting melamine tainted milk products. The incidents had become a full-blown international scandal since a number of countries imported milk and milk products from China.

At this point, people should be wary of food products from China, most specially: Fresh milk, long life milk, yogurt and ice cream, chocolate bars and milk candy.

Melamine was added to milk diluted with water to increase the protein content. This makes buyers of the milk believe they are getting high quality milk even though it has been watered down.

Because of such developments, the internationally popular chocolate and milk tea brands Cadbury and Lipton have recalled their products that were manufactured from China in order to address their clients' fears. Cadbury announced the recall as a precautionary measure while Lipton declared that their internal quality tests found traces of the banned substance in their milk tea products from China. Chinese health authorities later found Cadbury chocolate to be safe as their analysis found the level of melamine in these products legally acceptable.

The popular Chinese “White Rabbit” brand
of creamy candies is once again in the spotlight. Philippine authorities found formaldehyde in such products on 2007 and ordered a recall. This time, Hong Kong authorities banned the product after finding dangerous levels of melamine in it.

How will this issue end? First, the Chinese authorities need to take full responsibility and implement institutional reforms. Issues regarding unsafe ingredients in food items have surfaced and resurfaced through the years and one thing has been consistent with the way the scandals were handled – left to die a natural death. With the tainted food scandals resurfacing, time and time again, in virtually the same forms, it seems that the government has done nothing to stop it. With the previous animal deaths caused by melamine in pet food, the Chinese food industry should have already realized its fatal consequences. However, its resurface as a human food ingredient gives no reason to think otherwise.

That is what needs to be changed. The government should make it clear how food safety, domestically and internationally, should become a priority issue and stiff penalties will be given to those who knowingly discard it.

It should also become a policy to impose stiff penalties on government officials who initiate and implement cover ups. The same penalties should also be given to those who negligently act upon such issues. The proposal may be harsh, but it will make sure that the cover ups and slow reaction will never take place.

China Philippine Milk Scandal

Cadbury Recalls Choclates

Asia Tainted Milk

Mealmine

Hong Kong Bans White Rabbit Candy

White Rabbit Candies New Zealand

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The China (and Philippine) Milk Scandal (Video)



The current China Milk Scandal should be an opportunity for the Philippines to address a related problem. In China, milk (infant formula) is currently being blamed for the death of some infants, incidence of kidney stones in another 13,000 and currently mild illness in about 54,000 others. At this point, 104 babies are in serious condition. The disaster is being blamed on the toxic substance Melamine which was found in a number of milk products in China.

What is Melamine?

Sometimes confused with the plant and animal compound Melanine or another term ( Melanin ), Melamine is an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of plastic products. Despite that, tests showed that a number of milk companies used it in processing milk.

Why use Melanine (Melamine) in Milk Products?

Dairy companies are suspected to have used Melanine in order to fool government regulators. With Melanine, milk can be diluted with water but continue to register high protein levels. With increased volume, more milk can be sold and the companies make more money. The problem is, Melanine can cause kidney stones and acute renal failure. In low doses Melamine is said to be non toxic but when mixed with cyanuric acid, it forms poorly digestible and deadly crystals. So why did they allow Melanine and Cyanuric acid to mix? A little research revealed that Melamine itself can produce Cyanuric acid. Therefore, by simply adding Melanine in milk, Cyanuric acid can possibly be produced and mixed to result in crystals that will damage people's kidneys.

In China, a grandmother told reporters that at 2 months old, her grandson's urine started becoming yellowish in color. At 9 months, it become bloody red. An interview with a doctor revealed that uric acid or calcium crystals (stones) are most probably filled with sharp edges that can tear an infected persons kidney or urethra. It is therefore very possible for individual with kidney stones to urinate blood. Needless to say, kidney stones are very painful for the infected individuals.

As of now, substantial quantities of fresh milk, long life milk, yogurt and ice cream (from China) were found to contain Melamine. It is probably safe to speculate that milk chocolate bars and other products with milk content (from China) are also in danger of containing Melanine.

A Philippine Milk Scandal?

In the Philippines, the Bureau of Food and Drug (BFAD) has banned the importation of milk products from the People's Republic of China (PROC). All importers and distributors are also ordered to stop selling the product while tests to make sure that imported Chinese milk is safe are being conducted.

A few days ago, the BFAD also warned the public from buying unlabeled milk being sold in plastic packs. There is a strong possibility that those came from China and worse, it may be a part of the contaminated batches that have been ordered destroyed.

What the government is yet to officially acknowledge is the fact that some milk anomalies have been in existence in the Philippines for quite sometime. Cheap and unbranded powdered milk is a regular sighting in most public markets and the possibility that those are bacteria laden is very strong. Sans any label that will make the distributors accountable, the government should immediately ban its sale. A television program once made an investigation and video documented a trader that recycles expired and dirty powdered milk into retail packs. At the very least, those products can result in diarrhea which is the fifth leading cause of infant mortality in the Philippines.

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A Policy of Self Sufficiency

Yeo Teck Wei is a Singapore based freelance writer who contributes weekly articles to www.wazzupmanila.com.

What everyone should know about food security

Do you know what is really implied by the term “food security”? Do you know who are the key organizations supporting international food aid? What can you do to help sustain food security? Did you know that having sufficient food does not always equate to food security? Read on to find out more.

What does the term food security imply?

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) states that food security exists when:

People, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

In other words, all three conditions must exist before a country can claim having attained food security.

How do countries tackle the issue of food security?

There are two fundamental approaches in tackling food security namely, food & income sufficiency.

A food sufficiency policy,means
1. An intentional attempt to increase domestic production to level greater than consumption. The surplus is then stored for various intentions.
2. During famine, surplus is the freely distributed public or at low, affordable prices.

In short, domestic food production should be able to account for a huge portion of local consumption.


A income self-sufficiency policy means

1. An intentional attempt to increase the people’s real income through job creation and other means.
2. In times of famine, disease outbreaks and other calamities, people should have enough income to support themselves even with hyper-inflated food prices.

This policy is often adapted by countries that are geographically disadvantaged in terms of agriculture. Those countries are often left with no recourse but increase the people's real income.

Two Examples

China, with its food self-sufficiency level at 95%, is a classic example of a country that embraces a food sufficiency policy.

On the other hand, Singapore, whose geographical conditions (i.e. small land size, warm weather etc.) is not suitable for massive food production, manages to assure its citizens of stable food supply by raising their real income.

The two countries show the vast difference in how countries worldwide tackle the issue of food security.

Two relevant UN Agencies

The United Nations has two sub-organizations that assist countries tackling the problem of food security. These are the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The former is one of the world's biggest food aid supporters, while FAO acts as “a neutral forum for nations to negotiate agreements and debate policies.”

What can YOU do?

Food security is a concern for both the political bigwigs and the man on the street. Thus, it is of vital importance that people know what they can do to help. The United States Department of Agriculture has suggested in detail what the community and individuals can do. Examples given include:
1. Food drives
2. Community gardens

…And so much more.

For more information, please read the full report Together We Can!

Disclaimer

The writer based this article's findings and conclusions on how six different countries tackle the issue of food security, after 2 weeks of intensive research.

The countries studied are: Singapore; China; Philippines; America; Britain, and Australia. Given the wide differences between national income, current political situation and other factors that were taken into consideration, these nations were chosen so as to provide a realistic scope and depth for the article. This article is not an official representation of food security planning for any country used in the article.

Related Article: All about the Rice Shortage

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Offshoring Rice Production

Why do the babies starve when there's enough food to feed the world? – Tracy Chapman

China and the Philippines Agricultural Comparison

China hosts roughly ¼ of the world's population. It is said that a few decades ago, there was intense rice shortage in the country which made the Chinese clear entire forests and convert it to farmlands. Despite that, the harvests were always not enough. At present, the Philippines is said to be in the same situation- large population but not enough farmlands.

Henry Lim Bon Liong, the brains behind the Philippine's very popular high breed rice varieties, claim that China today has so much rice in storage that it can afford not to plant rice for one year and still be able to sustain the country's need through its existing stocks.

Despite that, agriculture everywhere is a serious and ever increasing challenge even for those who are in food surplus. The unpredictable climate, human abuse, demands for land conversion, pestilence and force majeure are enough to change a country's state from food surplus to huge deficit in just an instant. The recent cyclone in Burma is a good example.

Why Offshore Rice and Other Agricultural Products

Because of that, it is seen as a wise move to apply to agriculture certain strategies that until now are seen as applicable only in other industries. People running outsourcing, production and other wired businesses recite the terms “mirror, back up and redundancy” over and over again. All three differ in technical definition but in laymen's lingo mean the same- should one area fail, another should activate in real time in order for service to continue without interruption. In short, the three terms in outsourcing, production and IT refer to the seamless transition from one source to another to be able to fill the void, in the event of any force majeure.

Where is China Offshoring Food Production

In agriculture, China is now taking the lead as it eyes Africa, South America and Russia as possible sources of farmlands. It is now looking at the possibility of buying or leasing land from those countries in order to have supplemental, redundant, mirrored and backup sources of food to be able to continue serving the needs of its people, without interruption.

That is a good program worthy of serious consideration. With the Philippines, spending so much in food subsidies, it will probably be wise to seriously look into this model that can possibly solve the country's present and future food problems. Based on the the Philippines’s high agricultural cost structure (fertilizers, labor, transportation), rice produced offshore will come out much cheaper.

I am not kidding!

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