By Genevieve Long
NEW YORK—The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) have found cookies contaminated with melamine on shelves in the state. The product, Koala’s March crème filled strawberry cookies, were tested during the past several weeks by the NYSDAM.
The same cookies were the subject of a nationwide recall by their distributor, Lotte USA, Inc. on Oct. 17 due to potential melamine contamination. However, only cookies with specific UPC codes were cited under the voluntary recall.
Melamine is an industrial chemical that is used as a coating in plastics, filters, and as a fire retardant. Concerns over melamine-contaminated products from China have flared since September, when the Chinese government said that over 53,000 infants were seriously sickened by melamine-contaminated milk. In December, the Chinese government admitted they lied about the number of sick infants, and now claim that over 300,000 infants have been affected. Several Chinese infants died from melamine contamination, but the exact number is not known.
Chinese manufacturers have been intentionally adding melamine to milk and milk-derived products for years. The nitrogen-rich chemical can make milk watered down to increase volume and profit mimic high levels of protein.
No action will be taken on behalf of consumers over the cookies found in New York because the level of contamination in the cookies was 0.97 ppm melamine, below the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approved level for melamine in food.
“Since this is well below the FDA tolerance level of 2.5 ppm, we will not be taking action on this sample,” said Steve Stich, Assistant Director of the NYSDAM Food Safety and Inspection division. “We will, however, keep our eyes out for similar products and continue sampling for melamine.”
Stitch’s comments were part of an email to Judy Braiman, president and found of Empire State Consumer Project, a Rochester, NY-based consumer protection group, obtained by the Epoch Times. Braiman received the email with the test results on Dec. 5. The testing was initiated after Braiman contacted the NYSDAM prior to the distributor warning on Oct. 18 advisory about the cookies.
“These cookies are marketed to very young children,” said Braiman. “No child or adult should be exposed to any melamine in the food they consume.”
Empire State Consumer Project found the cookies on the shelves of an Asian store and in grocery chain Wegman’s before Oct. 18. According to Braiman, Wegman’s voluntarily removed all of the cookies from their stores prior to the distributor recall.
Canada and the state of Alabama both found melamine-contaminated Koala’s March cookies on shelves in early October.
Other melamine-contaminated products from China continue to be found on shelves in the U.S. The products, which include cookies, crackers, and candy, and milk drinks, are commonly found in Asian grocery stores. However, mainstream retail outlets also carry melamine-contaminated products.
On Dec. 5, national retail giant Walmart recalled 173 9-inch high “Dressy Teddy Bear” with a 4-oz. chocolate bar. The product’s UPC number is 047475864485, and the product tag also includes the item number 291332.
The FDA is also warning consumers that Topaz brand Hazelnut Wafer Rolls with hazelnut chocolate flavored crème filling might be contaminated with melamine. The product, which comes in a green and blue metal canister, is the most recent entry on the FDA’s warning list, but no specific information about where the product is sold or when the warning was issued is listed.