Baby milk melamine scare

2008-11-26 00:00

WHILE the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department has described the levels of melamine detected in two locally-produced baby formulas as unacceptable, the manufacturer, Nestlé, claims melamine levels in these products are 10 times lower than the international guidance levels.

Yesterday, the department recalled Nestlé-produced Lactogen (1), which is a starter infant formula with iron, along with Nido, milk for one-year-olds and upwards.

The recall came as a result of the submission of samples of these products to the Forensic Chemical Laboratory in Cape Town for analysis by the Environmental Health Services of the eThekwini Municipality and Tshwane’s Metro Municipality.

Health spokesman Leon Mbangwa said the laboratory tests revealed that Lactogen (1) contained 1,6 mg/kg of melamine, and Nido, 3,0 mg/kg. This, he said, was more than the internationally-accepted level of one microgram per kilogram for foodstuffs intended for infants and young children.

However, speaking to The Witness yesterday, Nestlé spokesman Theo Mxakwe said South Africa has no specific legislation for melamine levels in foods.

“We have to realise that before the China crisis, no one was testing melamine. These products were produced in June/July, hence we have been able to only recall 54 tins countrywide.

“I cannot speak for the Department of Health, but the traces of melamine detected [in the products in question] are more than 10 times lower than the guidance levels of the World Health Organisation,” he said.

He said no Nestlé product is made from milk adulterated with melamine. He said their tests prove that contamination was a by-product of the fresh milk, which is locally produced, used in the baby formula. According to Mxakwe, levels of melamine in the animal feed could explain the presence of melamine in the milk.

The decision to have dairy products tested was instigated by the melamine crisis in China in September, which led to the death of four babies who developed kidney failure. Thousands more also fell ill.

Since this incident, Mxakwe said “Nestlé has taken total control” over its milk supply chain in South Africa and that systematic melamine testing for all raw milk has been introduced.

The department said it is currently not aware of any infants or young children who have been negatively affected by the consumption of the products in question.

“The department calls on the consumers who are still in possession of the products from the batch in question to discontinue to use it and to return it to the place where it was purchased.

“Parents who used the implicated product should, if they feel it necessary, consult a medical practitioner to ascertain the wellbeing of their children,” said Mbangwa.

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