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FDA test results show melamine in infant formula

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Consumers Union Calls on the FDA to Immediately Release All Results of Its Tests for Melamine Contamination in Food Products
Group ‘Deeply Concerned’ About Reports of FDA Test Results Indicating Melamine Contamination in U.S. Infant Formula

Washington, D.C – Consumers Union is deeply concerned about news reports that FDA has found traces of melamine and cyanuric acid in U.S. infant formula. Melamine is a chemical that has a number of industrial uses and is a common ingredient in some plastic products, but is not approved as an ingredient in human food in the U.S.
It is not clear, absent a Freedom of Information Act request by The Associated Press, whether the FDA would have released this information to the public. “Consumers Union calls on the FDA to immediately make public all of the results of its tests for melamine contamination in food, even if the only contamination detected was below the agency’s action level of 2.5 parts per million,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union. “We understand that the FDA has tested hundreds of samples for melamine. This information should be made available to consumers, who are no doubt concerned for themselves and their families,” added Halloran.
The FDA has in the past routinely published results of tests for the presence of mercury in fish, regardless of whether the test results were above or below the agency’s action level. Given the serious health consequences of melamine contamination in children, the agency should not withhold this test data.
Consumers Union also calls on infant formula companies to indicate the extent and results of testing they have done on melamine contamination in their products, and to recall any contaminated batches of the formula.
The FDA’s response to press inquiries, that parents should not necessarily stop feeding formula to their infants because only trace amounts of melamine were found in the formula, is of small comfort to parents and caregivers. This advice is especially troubling given the FDA’s September 12, 2008 health advisory telling caregivers “not to feed infant formula manufactured in China to infants,” and the agency’s statement in its risk assessment that it could not establish a safe level of melamine in infant formula. (http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2008/NEW01883.html and http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/melamra3.html#ftn4)
Further, the FDA quietly issued an import alert on November 12, 2008, requiring “detention without physical examination of all milk products, milk derived ingredients and finished food products containing milk from China due to the presence of melamine and/or melamine analogs.” (http://www.fda.gov/ora/fiars/ora_import_ia9930.html)
Consumers Union has outlined several priorities for overhaul of the FDA. In order for the agency to do its job adequately, CU believes the following must take place:
• FDA should be required to inspect all food production facilities on a routine basis, both domestic and foreign, and increase inspections at the border; and
• FDA needs to have comprehensive mandatory recall authority governing both domestic and foreign food producers, to enable the agency to remove contaminated foods from shelves.
Consumers have doubts about the ability of the agency to protect them. In a November 2008 Consumer Reports poll, 81 percent of respondents were concerned with the safety of imported food, and two-thirds of respondents said the FDA should inspect domestic and foreign food-processing facilities at least once a month. “This latest safety problem is yet another example of how FDA is failing in its mission to protect American consumers,” said Halloran.
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Jean Halloran
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