Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Melamine In Imported Fish

In my last post, I listed some actions the FDA took this year that benefited the food industry, sometimes at the cost of public health.

Here's an action the FDA should have taken, but didn't: Add melamine to the inspection list for fish imports. Why? In May, the FDA published research:
Determination and Confirmation of Melamine Residues in Catfish, Trout, Tilapia, Salmon, and Shrimp by Liquid Chromatography with Tandem Mass Spectrometry, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, May 2008

... which found levels of melamine in imported fish up to 200 ppm. The FDA's current "safe" level for melamine, for adults, is 2.5 ppm.

Melamine is added to animal and fish feed to boost protein readings.

Melamine is toxic to humans. It damages the kidney, causes kidney stones, and can lead to kidney failure. People with diabetes already have compromised kidneys. To allow them, or anyone, to consume foods that contain possibly damaging levels of melamine without informing them of these findings is unethical.

Some melamine-spiked farmed fish is probably making its way into pet food too.

I read about the FDA's findings, not in May, but a few days ago. (Why wasn't this an FDA press release 7 months ago? Did I miss it?):

Toxic Melamine Is Suspected In Seafood From China, LA Times, December 24, 2008
"The [FDA], which is responsible for ensuring the safety of imported fish, currently doesn't require seafood products to be screened for melamine. Yet research from its own scientists has raised a warning flag."

"Laboratory studies of melamine-fed catfish, trout, tilapia and salmon by the FDA's Animal Drugs Research Center found that fish tissues had melamine concentrations of up to 200 parts per million. That's 80 times the maximum "tolerable" amount set by the FDA for safe consumption."

"China is the world's largest producer of farm-raised seafood, exporting billions of dollars worth of shrimp, catfish, tilapia, salmon and other fish.1 The U.S. imported about $2 billion of seafood products from China in 2007, almost double the volume of four years earlier."
1"China produces about 70% of the farmed fish in the world."
- In China, Farming Fish In Toxic Waters, New York Times, December 2007.

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