By Genevieve Long
NEW YORK—Consumers are being warned off of some melamine-tainted products from China, but it’s the products they don’t know about that could hurt them. The problem lies in the testing and identification system for imported ingredients, say experts.
“Any product that comes from China, if it’s prepackaged, they’ve had to be labeled since 1930, so that country of origin should be on there,” says Dr. Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist for Food Safety at Consumers Union. The nonprofit publishes Consumer Reports magazine. Hansen says that danger lies in the rules related to labeling after ingredients are imported.
“If somebody buys an ingredient from China and mixes it with stuff here…they don’t necessarily have to label it [with a country of origin],” says Hansen. “A lot of things that they’re concerned with, with these melamine products, they’re all going to be exempt. Milk powder that is added to pastry products, or anything like that, that’s processed—that’s all going to be exempt.”
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has been screening and testing some products from China, but by its own reckoning there are gaps in scientific knowledge needed to assess the toxicity of melamine.