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China reduces minimum protein levels to combat melamine

By Guy Montague-Jones , 15-Jul-2010

China has lowered minimum protein levels in raw milk in the country’s latest effort to stamp out the use of melamine in the dairy industry.

Following the revelation last week that more melamine tainted dairy materials had been seized by Chinese authorities, the country has gone on the offensive again to try and prevent any repeat of 2008 when contaminated products left 6 people dead and made hundreds of thousands ill.

Previously China had tried to tighten food safety laws to discourage companies from using melamine but now the country is loosening quality rules in pursuit of the same goal.

The logic is that the new rules on protein will remove the reason for adding melamine in the first place.

The high nitrogen content in the toxic chemical makes protein levels appear higher than they really are, potentially enabling unscrupulous producers to pass protein tests.

Lower minimum

Reuters said Chinese health officials have therefore decided to lower minimum protein levels for raw milk from 2.95 per cent to 2.8 per cent. Officials said the new standard is more realistic given how the quality of the feed commonly used in China can lead to low protein levels.

“The 2.8 percent level is based on a lot of data collected after an investigation by the agriculture ministry and is most suitable for China's current economic development,” said Wang Zhutian, deputy director of the National Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety at the China Center for Disease Control.

News of the reform to protein testing comes a week after around 64 tonnes of raw dairy materials were seized from a plant in the Qinghai Province, in northwest China. Much of the contaminated product has been traced to the Hebei Province, which was the source of the toxic infant formula products from the 2008 scare.

Authorities have therefore suggested that traders may have bought contaminated materials that should have been destroyed after 2008, with the intention of processing and selling them on.

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