EFSA Concludes that Risk from Foods Tainted with Melamine Cannot be Ruled Out; FDA Updates Melamine Advisory

September 28, 2008

In response to an urgent request of the European Commission, Health and Consumers Directorate, the European Food Safety Authority ("EFSA") conducted an exposure assessment for biscuits and confectionery contaminated with melamine.  Although milk and milk products originating from China currently are prohibited from importation into the EU, composite foods that contain milk powder originating from China (e.g., biscuits and chocolate) have been imported into the EU.  The exposure assessment released on September 24th concludes that, “in worst case scenarios with the highest level of contamination, children with high daily consumption of milk toffee, chocolate, or biscuits containing high levels of milk powder would exceed the TDI.  Children who consume both such biscuits and chocolate could potentially exceed the TDI by more than threefold.”  “TDI” refers to Tolerable Daily Intake, which is defined as an estimate of the amount of a substance that can be ingested daily over a lifetime without appreciable risk.  Although the exposure assessment notes that “it is presently unknown whether such high level exposure scenarios may occur in Europe,” the conclusions of the safety assessment are likely to intensify actions on the part of government agencies and industry to identify potentially contaminated foods and to further examine the integrity of their supply chains. 

On this side of the Atlantic,FDA’s latest melamine advisory, dated September 26th, alerts consumers to a recall of several instant coffee and milk tea products manufactured in China because of possible contamination with melamine.  The advisory further states that “FDA has broadened its domestic and import sampling and testing of milk-derived ingredients and finished food products containing milk, such as candies, desserts, and beverages that could contain these ingredients from Chinese sources.”  The advisory is silent as to the relevance of EFSA's exposure assessment to the U.S. population.

By Ricardo Carvajal

Categories: Foods