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Melamine in food from China: “Everyone’s doing it”

April 30, 2007

Melamine may not be “particularly toxic” to humans, but it is illegal to add the chemical to food in the United States. And it might be toxic to some animals. In any case, it has no nutritional benefit. However, it does fake out chemical nutrient tests and mimic nitrogen, boosting the apparent protein content in the food.

Melamine, a coal by-product used in plastics and fertilizer, has shown up in hogs in the U.S., and this introduces the possibility that the substance is already in the human food chain: people eat animals that eat melamine.

Chinese chemical company officials glibly mentioned that feed companies buy melamine from them routinely, adding it to their animal feeds to fake protein percentages. One official commented “everyone’s doing it.” China has no regulations prohibiting the use of melamine in food.

Not only is everybody doing it, but they’ve been doing it since 1991. The chemical is added to “wheat, corn, soybean [and] other proteins,” in our wonderful global marketplace, so it isn’t easy to avoid. It’s been reported that at least one pet food manufacturer, Natural Balance, has had melamine detected in its products containing brown rice and peas.

Most happily, my diabetic cat is on a gluten-free diet, and eats nothing but pure Thai tuna, which is caught far offshore and has the lowest mercury content in the world. There is no other protein in his food but the fish. But there goes my Chinese steamed wheat gluten-bun habit.  And I suppose my chickens will require locally grown organic feed, since some feed was just found to be contaminated with melamine-laced wheat gluten.

I’m probably just over-reactive, but my faithful regulatory agencies are working very hard to protect me from something they keep telling me isn’t really very toxic.  So what made 14,000 cats and dogs sick that vets everywhere said was food-linked?  Is the scare about melamine, or something someone has demonstrated is easy to introduce into our food?

My point in shopping with extreme care, in addition to the health of my household and its valued animals, is that I will not suborn the pathological pragmatism of the rampant, pernicious addition of a chemical that might be toxic to animals, and that is illegal in countries to which the Chinese gladly export it. My buck stops at the border. Melamine is for cheap dishes.

One Comment
  1. May 23, 2007 5:11 am

    IMHO until we stop over processing our food chain these scare will continue – we must get away from this “chemicalisation” of food…for us OR our pets

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