11/14/2008, 00.00
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US imposes melamine controls on Chinese food imports

FDA is set to conduct closer inspections of many imported products at the source. US officials will travel to China to discuss food safety. This might be the worst scandal for Chinese food, ever.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – US authorities have issued a nationwide "import alert" for Chinese-made food products in the wake of the melamine contamination scandal. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials will be travelling to China next week for consultations with the Chinese about safety issues. The agency is also planning to open three offices in the country to check products intended for the US market.

The FDA, which had already issued an alert warning Americans not to consume Chinese products containing milk, will now conduct closer inspections after adding more than a dozen other goods imported from China, including biscuits, instant coffee and tea products, to its list of restricted products.

The FDA routinely blocks imports of individual food products, but it is rare for the agency to block an entire category of foods from a particular country.

This shows both the seriousness of the situation and the authorities’ determination to protect consumers by guaranteeing the safety of imported products.

Used in making plastic but toxic for humans, melamine was originally found in high levels in milk powder made by leading Chinese companies.

According to official figure it has caused severe kidney problems in 53,000 infants and killed four babies but for many people such numbers underestimate the problem.

The scandal spread after it was found in other dairy products made by large multinational companies like powdered and fresh eggs, as well as pig and poultry feed.

Last year US authorities had already found the same substance in pet food for dogs and cats, killing dozens of them.

At the time however Beijing dismissed complaints saying that it was being blown out of proportion and that it had institute new food safety rules.

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