How to detect melamine in China food products

Melamine, a chemical normally used to make plastics and glues, is added to simulate acceptable protein levels. The chemical is at the centre of the latest tainted food scandal in China. Toxic ingredients from China killed or sickened thousands of dogs and cats in the US last year, prompting a public outcry. The WHO has said that as of Sept. 25, more than 54,000 infants and children in China had been taken to hospitals and clinics for treatment of urinary problems — such as renal tube blockages and kidney stones — related to the presence of melamine in infant formula and other dairy products. More than 14,000 infants had been hospitalized after ingesting the contaminated formula, of which a little less than 13,000 remained in hospitals. Some health experts said more must be done to ensure accuracy and overall food safety.

It is likely that the tainted milk was first diluted with water to increase its volume, and then had melamine added to boost nitrogen content, an indirect indicator of protein content. The chemical is not a substance used in any facet of food production.

People have to grind and homogenise the food samples, and then put them through a series of steps with an organic solvent to extract, clean and concentrate them before they analyse them for melamine.


The European Commission had recommended that all EU member states use gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to analyze imports of wheat gluten and other raw materials from developing countries — in particular China. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) used the method to test for melamine and similar compounds in wheat gluten and pet food ingredients from China.

The samples are then separated into their parts using a process called Liquid Chromatography-tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).


Mass spectrometry, which can detect very low evels of a compound, is then used to analyse them. LC-MS/MS testing is capable of detecting melamine levels as low as 0.05 parts per million (ppm). LC-MS/MS is a more precise instrument than GC-MS. This method would be used to test for melamine in the raw materials imported for use in creamers, milk powder and baby formula.

The technique is 500 times more sensitive in detecting melamine than high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), which was previously favored by the health department.

But the method to test for melamine in other, finished products remained unclear.


China Food Melamine-free Label

China Food Melamine-free Label

Taipei Report 2008-9-27

The Department of Health said five labs certified to test for melamine had been working night and day to cope with the growing backlog of samples.

China Food Melamine-free Label

Newly Department of Health Minister Yeh Chin-chuan checks products containing milk powder that are still on sale at a Taipei supermarket yesterday. The store has displayed copies of certification to prove that the products have been tested and found to meet Department of Health regulations.


Meanwhile the DOH said yesterday that it would step up its random examination of food products from countries with dubious food safety standards.

“We have targeted products from certain countries with questionable standards and we do not rule out the possibility of carrying out the strictest batch-by-batch examinations of suspect products,” Yeh said, declining to name any countries.

Asked to comment on the scandal involving Pizza Hut, Yeh said it was only one case and that the source of the tainted ingredients had yet to be identified.

Pizza Hut on Friday reported to the DOH that 65,000 packets of cheese powder contaminated with up to 76.2ppm of melamine may have been consumed by its customers.

Pizza Hut has since recalled all unused cheese packets.

To date, five cases of kidney stones have been reported nationwide that could be linked to melamine.


The Department of Health (DOH) said the nation’s five laboratories certified for testing, including the Food Industry Research and Development Institute, had been working night and day to cope with the growing backlog of companies that need to have products tested.

The DOH said it planned to have another 16 labs certified by the Taiwan Accreditation Foundation to help with melamine testing.

The labs, when ready, will accept samples seven days a week, it said.

Yeh said yesterday that the DOH would meet local health authorities in 25 counties and cities tomorrow to coordinate inspection procedures.

On Tuesday, the DOH will contact experts in the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the EU to collaborate on standard inspection procedures and setting a threshold for melamine detection, he said.


Yeh said the government was responsible for screening all imported foodstuffs and that all agencies, including the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection, the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine and the Bureau of Food and Drug Analysis would “apply the strictest screening standards.”

In response to a report in the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) that customs personnel had not yet received lists of banned imports, Yeh said the task force had confirmed that instructions on banned products — including Chinese-made milk powder, other dairy products and vegetable-based proteins — had been issued as early as Tuesday.

Not one banned product has made it past Taiwan’s borders since, he said.


China government strengthens quality supervision on export goods and foods

China's Sanlu admits contamination of baby milk powder products

China government strengthens quality supervision on export goods and foods

Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOC) on Monday ordered its local agencies to step up quality supervision efforts targeted at export-oriented foods, dairy products, medicines, toys and furniture products.

This notice came after tainted dairy products sickened thousands of infants in the country.

China's tainted milk scandal spread beyond the mainland to Hong Kong, as doctors in the city discovered a kidney stone in a 3-year-old girl, Bloomberg reported. The girl's parents took her for a checkup after learning the milk she had been drinking for 15 months - made by mainland dairy firm Yili - may contain the chemical melamine. At least four children have died after consuming tainted milk products, and the number of hospitalized cases has risen almost ninefold to 12,892, according to CCTV, the state broadcaster. Of these, 104 patients are in a serious condition.

China's tainted milk scandal

A total of 39,965 children have visited clinics due to illness induced by the tainted products. Milk products made by Sanlu, the company first exposed in the scandal, are thought to be responsible for most of the hospitalizations so far. However, a further 21 Chinese dairy producers have been implicated, including the three largest: Yili, China Mengniu and Bright Dairy & Food.

The scandal was brought to light on Sept. 11 when the Beijing-based Ministry of Health said it found melamine in baby formula made by Sanlu Group Co., 43 percent owned by Auckland, New Zealand-based Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd.

Chinese quality-supervision authorities said on Sept. 19 that they had found melamine in 24 batches of liquid milk and yogurt. The Chinese and Hong Kong governments have set up telephone hotlines for distributing medical information to concerned parents and recalled milk products that tests show may contain melamine, a toxic chemical used for making plastics and tanning leather.

China's State Administration of Industry and Commerce had paid refunds for 304 tons of dairy products as of Sept. 20, according to Xinhua News Agency. In China, 39,965 children have visited clinics after falling ill from the powder, the official CCTV reported.

"Local commerce agencies should set up special quality supervision working groups and establish export-oriented product quality reporting system on those foods and goods that may affect consumers' health and safety," said the MOC in a notice on its website.

If serious export goods quality problems occur, local market watchdogs should report the issue to higher authorities without delaying. Manufacturers should be responsible for recalling all the problem products immediately, according to the ministry.


US Retail Titan Insists on Sourcing Goods from China

HONG KONG (AFP) — US retail titan Wal-Mart Wednesday said soaring production and commodity costs would not damage its ability to source goods from China, and it even expected an improvement in the product standards.

Wal-Mart Sourcing China Goods

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it will set up its Asian headquarters in Hong Kong.

The retailer is considering its first stores in Southeast Asia and expects to approach 10% growth in international sales to $100 billion this fiscal year despite a global economic slowdown.

"The new Wal-Mart office in Hong Kong will oversee the company's operations in mainland China, India and Japan, as well as identify new business opportunities for the company throughout Asia," Wal-Mart Asia President Vicente Trius said in a statement. Wal-Mart, which operates more than 4,000 stores in the U.S. and 3,000 stores in 13 other countries, posted $90.6 billion in international sales last fiscal year, about a quarter of overall revenue.

"Hong Kong is the perfect location from which to operate a regional headquarters for Asia, as it is centrally located and offers ready access to markets across the region," he said.

The company didn't give a time frame for opening the Asian headquarters. The Bentonville, Ark., retailer, a runner-up to Carrefour SA in China in terms of sales and stores, is enjoying a huge leap in market share as it advances a $1 billion acquisition of local chain Trust-Mart, expected to be fully completed by 2010.

"I foresee international will outpace the U.S. in terms of percentage of growth. We should be approaching the $100 billion mark this year for international," Mr. Trius said.

Wal-Mart recently posted a 17% jump in its second-quarter profit to $3.45 billion, on the back of a 17% increase in international sales to $25.26 billion.

Vicente Trius, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Asia, said that China had been a stable source of products and would remain so in the coming years.

"The economic downturn or inflation or high production cost has not had an impact specific to our sourcing in China as compared to other countries," he told reporters as he launched the company's regional headquarters in Hong Kong.

"My gut feeling is that the quality of Chinese goods will give a competitive advantage as we go forward," he said.

While other emerging markets might compete on price, China will also be able to compete on quality, he added.

Wal-Mart has built much of its success on being able to source cheap products from China's factories, but growing commodity and wage inflation has put the factories under greater pressure.

Trius insisted the global economic slowdown had not hurt their retail businesses in the mainland, which saw 16 percent growth over the last 12 months.

"China is an extremely fragmented market. Any retailer there would have less than one percent market share, which I believe offers us a lot of opportunities," he said.

Despite choosing Hong Kong as the regional base ahead of Singapore and Shanghai, Trius said Wal-Mart had no immediate plans to open a store in the southern Chinese city.

"I would say the availability of properties is a challenge here. We are not talking about prices," he said.

Hong Kong's supermarket sector is dominated by two conglomerate-backed players who have managed to fight off any foreign entry, most notably French giant Carrefour.

Appendix Report

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is opening an Asian headquarters in Hong Kong to oversee the mega-retailer's operations on the continent. Wal-Mart announced the Hong Kong headquarters Wednesday saying it picked the trade hub over other possible Asian locations.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) relies heavily on Chinese imports for its discount retail model.

"Just as the Wal-Mart America's regional office in Miami oversees the company's operations in Canada, Central and South America, the new Wal-Mart office in Hong Kong will oversee the company's operations in Mainland China, India and Japan, as well as identify new business opportunities for the company throughout Asia," said Wal-Mart Asia CEO Vicente Trius in a statement.


China and EU Try to Stop Fake Goods from Flooding European Markets

China and EU must step up their efforts to stop fake goods from the growing economic power flooding European markets, the EU’s Tax and Customs Commissioner Laszlo Kovacs has said. Speaking in an interview with InfoRadio, Kovacs lamented the fact that 80 percent of fake goods - which he said included not just brandname clothing but life-threatening medicines made from brick dust and other substances - seized by EU customs authorities originate in China.

China and EU Try to Stop Fake Goods from Flooding European Markets“The EU has to strictly examine imported goods,” he said, adding the member states should make every effort to kill demand for cheap forged goods. In another Chinese case, the European Union has decided to crack down on imports of rice from China, saying that the Chinese authorities had failed to filter out products containing unauthorised genetically-modified (GM) material. “Despite measures announced by the Chinese authorities in 2007, alerts concerning the presence of the unauthorised GM rice ‘Bt 63’ were reported until late 2007,” the European Commission said in a statement.

“The commission believes it is now appropriate to proceed with the adoption of emergency measures which will impose on an important number of rice products originating from China a compulsory certificate,” the statement said.

“The first step against fake goods is to stop their production, and only China can stop this,” Kovacs said, although he acknowledged that Chinese authorities had introduced stricter laws and handed down heavy sentences in some cases. Kovacs, who just returned from Beijing where he held talks with Chinese authorities on how to improve customs cooperation, also called for EU member states to remain vigilant.

As of April 15, only rice and rice products which feature on a special EU-approved list and which have been certified as GM-free by EU-approved labs will be allowed into the 27- member bloc.

The list covers a huge variety of products, including husked and polished brown and white rice, rice flour, noodles, rice paper, rice starch, and unroasted mueslis, a spokeswoman for EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa.) EU imports of rice-based noodles from China alone total some 30,000 tonnes per year, she said.

The crackdown came after EU member states Britain, France and Germany reported that they had found traces of the Bt 63 rice in products made in or shipped from China in September 2006.
Under EU law, only GM organisms which have passed EU safety checks can be marketed in Europe. Bt 63 rice has not passed such tests. The EU complained to China, which reacted by boosting its export checks and suspending the export licences of the companies concerned.

But EU member states reported further traces of Bt 63 in February 2007 and continued to report more findings throughout the year, despite increased Chinese efforts. “China is responsible for ensuring that Bt 63 does not enter the EU food chain,” the commission statement said.


Most Chinese Goods up to Standard: Statistics

WASHINGTON -- "Made in China" labels mean good quality and value for money to US consumers as up-to-date statistics show most Chinese goods meet US standards.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on June 28 a block on imports of five species of seafood from China because of so-called contamination.

china goods trade

The announcement, coupled with reports of contaminated pet food ingredients, led some American media to place an equals sign between "Made in China" and substandard products.

However, a closer look at the data on Chinese imports would reveal the majority of them meet US quality standards while only a fraction of them is problematic.

The FDA regulates food, drugs, medical devices and some radiation-emitting devices. FDA data showed Chinese seafood was seized at the border less than 400 times last year. By comparison, products from the Dominican Republic was stopped over 800 times and candy from Denmark was rejected more than 500 times during the same period.

The statistics also showed that in 2006 the sale of Dominican food in the United States amounted to 300 million US dollars and Danish food hit 400 million dollars, whereas the sale of Chinese food reached 3.8 billion dollars.

From July 2006 through June of this year, the agency's inspectors stopped 1,763 food shipments from India, followed by Mexico at 1,480, China 1,368, Dominican Republic 828, Denmark 543, Vietnam 533, Japan 508 and Italy 482 and Indonesia 460.

US government data indicated that China sent more food products, at least in terms of dollar value, into the United States than any of these countries except Mexico in 2006.

Mexico shipped 9.8 billion dollars worth of food to the United States, followed by China, which shipped 3.8 billion dollars. By comparison, Italy shipped 2.9 billion dollars worth of food to the United States, followed by Indonesia at 1.5 billion, India 1.2 billion, Vietnam 1.1 billion and Japan 500 million.

At the same time the FDA issued an import alert for Chinese fish, it also issued alerts for Mexican cantaloupes and basmati rice from India among others.

In terms of food violation counts, Mexico and India are well ahead of China. Salmonella mostly found on spices, seeds and shrimps is the frequent reason for the denial of entry from India. Filth is the major reason that food from Mexico, including candy, chilies, juice, seafood and cheese, was rejected.

A recent report issued by China's quality watchdog, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, sheds more light on the issue.

Last year, less than 1 percent of the Chinese food products were rejected by the United States due to quality problems, the report said, adding that the figure is even lower than the percentage of substandard USfood products China rejected last year.

Carl Nielsen, a retired FDA official who oversaw import operation and policy, said no single country should be faulted for quality problems.

"What we are experiencing is massive globalization," he told The New York Times.

Globalization urges businesses all over the world to seek the utmost cost-saving products to achieve maximum profits. In so doing, importers do everything in their power to drive down prices of products whereas exporters go all out to reduce costs, Nielsen said.

Wherever there is a loophole in quality oversight, there is a hotbed of poor-quality or substandard products, he added.

Since any merchandise could be the result of international trade, problems with quality may rise anywhere during the process, from raw materials and manufacturing to distribution.

Improving food safety, therefore, needs the joint efforts of governments at all levels at home and cooperation among countries when it comes to conveying complete and correct quality information to the consumers.

Source: China Daily


Is It Necessary to Boycott Chinese Goods?

China will spend about $125 billion this year for defense.
The U.S. will spend about $725 or so.

In fact, U.S. military expenditures amount to more than three times as much as China and Russia *combined*.

So much for the military threat. Let’s move on to the economy. China’s GDP will total about $3.5 trillion this year. U.S. GDP will total about $17 billion. Bear in mind that economic productivity is dvidied across all of the people who contribute to the economy. Divide the U.S. GDP by 300 million. Divide the China GDP by 1,100 million. Pretty pathetic, actually.

Now let’s talk a little about consumer protection. The Chinese began embracing capitalism about fifteen years ago, but only in a substantive way in the past eight or ten years. America during the 1800’s was mainly agricultural. Capitalist industry really started to get cranked up at the turn of tthe 20th century. With industrialization came all sorts of nasty excesses: child labor, unsafe working conditions, unsafe products (I doubt any of us would care to eat meat processed in the Chicago packing houses of 1915). As a result of the excesses and abuses, we eventually passed all sorts of consumer, labor and environmental laws. But it took us nearly 70 years to get a lot of it in place, and it only came about due to strong public pressure.

China is just getting going in terms of its potential industrial and economic development. The excesses and abuses are evident already: from uncrontrolled labor conditions to uncontrolled toxic discharges into the air and streams. In other words, and for all of our own good, China has got to adopt and enforce strong, systematic safety regulation.

A boycott against China because of its military or economy is like a boycott against a dog for having a flea. The Chinese would laugh it off as you would a threat of boycott from your three year old.

A boycott aimed at pressing China for stronger consumer protection, however, is a direct attack on the Chinese brand. People don’t buy unsafe products. I don’t know how old you are, but many of your readers will remember the way we turned up our noses at Japanese cars in the 1970’s. That consumer response led to the Japanese cars of the 1980’s and 1990’s: Toyota and Honda built a commitment to quality that drove them to the top of the automotive world.

We can do the same thing to the Chinese. But only if we scream every time we find faulty goods and if we refuse to buy inferior goods.

That will solve the quality issue, but the problem of jobs in America is a different issue altogether. For that you are going to have to convince a lot of American couch potatoes to get off their duffs and get more American kids to succeed in school. The Chinese will graduate over 300,000 engineers this year. The Americans will graduate about 80,000. Chemical engineers, electrical engineers, computer engineers, aerospace engineers… you know, the kinds of folks who make our American way of life so cool and comfy. Kids in China have schools that are pathetic compared to ours in terms of the buildings and teacher salaries. But they have something we don’t: parents who aren’t afraid to make their kids work on their books. In America we emphasize playtime for kids: softball, basketball, soccer, t.v., computer games. China’s parents tell kids, work hard now so you can lead a better life later. American parents tell their kids, in effect, enjoy life now and take any old dead-end job you can find later.

So I guess my question is this: Do we really need a Chinese boycott or a wake up call to American parents and students?

A comment by Frank from Reflections by J. Schenone


Argentina Star Says China's fake goods sellers have good time at the 2008 Olympics

From a report by Argentina Star on Sunday 17th August, 2008, China’s counterfeit peddlers have been doing a roaring trade during the Olympic Games.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, sellers are ringing up bumper sales to bargain-hunting Olympic visitors, though minimal attempts to crack down on copyright theft.

While authorities tried to run out some of the peddlers and prostitutes before the games, some of the best customers have been visitors wearing the official yellow badges of Olympic visitors.

Even counterfeit versions of the blue and white Olympic volunteer shirts have become fair game for the counterfeiters.

According to another report, China Olympic-related Spending Boosts Retail Sales by 23.3%. The Beijing Olympics, however, has triggered higher sales in the hospitality industry, with receipts at hotels and restaurants gaining 26.5 percent to 116.8 billion yuan.

A Chinese intellectual property official said the world is overestimating the amount of counterfeit goods made in China, and blamed "expensive" copyright goods for driving consumers to fake goods. In 2006, 81 percent of all counterfeit goods seized by the United States came from China, up from 65 percent a year earlier, according to U.S. government statistics.


China Olympic-related Spending Boosts Retail Sales by 23.3%

Retail sales of China jumped 23.3 percent last month to 862.9 billion yuan (US$125.8 billion), the fastest pace since 1996, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday.

china retail sales

The growth outpaced the 23-percent increase in June and the 21.6-percent in May. It helped to push the figure for the first seven months to 5.97 trillion yuan, a 21.7-percent jump from the same period a year ago.

Analysts said increased spending in the run-up to the Olympics and relief efforts to aid the country's earthquake-stricken areas boosted sales at home, which compensated for weaker external demand and slower growth in investment.

"Domestic consumption has expanded steadily so far this year as people showed a greater willingness to spend," said Li Maoyu, an analyst at Changjiang Securities Co. "But the plummeting stock market may curb faster growth in the future."

China's equities markets have been in the doldrums since the start of the year. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped below 2,500 this week, more than half its October heyday when it crested above 6,000 points.

China's property market is also showing signs of a slowdown as home sales dropped in several major cities even though prices have remained little changed.

The falloff has resulted in a drop in spending on construction and home decorations, which fell 3.4 percent in July from a year earlier.

The Beijing Olympics, however, has triggered higher sales in the hospitality industry, with receipts at hotels and restaurants gaining 26.5 percent to 116.8 billion yuan.

Even with all the spending, inflation has eased. The Consumer Price Index growth slowed in July for a third straight month to 6.3 percent, the lowest level since last September.

"The slower growth in the CPI is a positive element for the expanding retail sales," Li said.

Peng Ken, a Citigroup economist, said the strength in consumer demand "is a significant stabilizing factor in the slowing economy and takes some pressure off policy makers to engineer other drivers of growth."

Among the subcategories of retail consumption, sales of meat, poultry and eggs rose 18.4 percent in July while spending on grain and edible oil increased 18.3 percent.

Petroleum and related products sales soared 55 percent, due to price rises for gasoline and diesel, which rose as much as 18 percent in June.


Counterfeit China goods overestimated

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese intellectual property official said on Tuesday the world is overestimating the amount of counterfeit goods made in China, and blamed "expensive" copyright goods for driving consumers to fake goods.

Pirated DVDs Sold in China "There is a certain amount of pirated DVDs sold in China that are produced outside of the country," Yin Xintian, the director of the State Intellectual Property Office, told reporters.

While Yin did not provide any details, he said some counterfeiters were importing fake goods into China to avoid Beijing's crackdown on these items.

In 2006, 81 percent of all counterfeit goods seized by the United States came from China, up from 65 percent a year earlier, according to U.S. government statistics.
More than 80 percent of the world's counterfeit or unsafe products, including toys, jewelry, clothing and electronic goods, come from China.

"One problem is that the price of copyrighted products is far higher than pirated goods," said Yin.

"If they lowered the price of copyrighted goods, the profits and incentive to counterfeiters would also be reduced," he said.

Counterfeit China ShoesIn an attempt to stem rampant software piracy, Microsoft Corp in 2006 lowered its software prices in exchange for pre-installing its operating system in PCs made by Lenovo Group Ltd, China's largest PC maker, and three other leading Chinese manufacturers.

Yin's comments come just days after China's State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC) said that it had processed 2,882 cases of counterfeit or illegal Olympics goods and over 1,000 of them had come in May and June of this year.

European officials have said China has made progress in combating counterfeit goods, but it still accounts for some 60 percent of all such products that reach European shores.

(Reporting by Kirby Chien; Editing by Valerie Lee; Recommended by CGN)

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