Until Sep 9, few who use the word “melamine” would have associated it with food, especially with something as pervasive in the food chain as milk. For me, be4 the current scare, melamine had always meant the hardy plastic crockery that simulates china-ware right down to the patterns.
Since then, all hell has broken loose and a cyclone of panic appears to be sweeping the world, with ever-widening lists of countries throwing out a seemingly never-ending catalogue of China-related milk and milk products.
In Singapore, there are lists of the “banned” products circulating among friends: I’ve received a few lists, with one set purporting to relate to recall issued by a leading supermarket chain. If u contact me, i cld share with you the lists with the caveat I don’t know if they are official or just a guestimate.
A quick glance thru the lists tells me I’ve eaten none of the stuff. But even if I have been pigging myself on those things, am I likely to feel the dire effects that’s panicking half the world and more?
Listen to what our Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has to say abt consuming melamine contaminated foods based on the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of melamine established by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) :
An adult weighing 60 kg or a child weighing 30 kg can ingest 37.8 mg of melamine and 18.9 mg of melamine respectively every day over a lifetime without any appreciable health risk.
‘We would also like to assure the public that the levels of melamine detected in the products are low and hence unlikely to result in adverse health effects,’ AVA said.
‘Consumers have to consume large quantities of the contaminated products over a prolonged period of time to have any potential ill effects on health.’
A child weighing 30kg would have to consume 322ml – about the volume of a canned soft drink – daily over a lifetime to be in any danger. By extension, an adult of double the weight would need to consumer the equivalent of two cans of melamine daily over a lifetime to be in similar danger.
Fact is, who would be gorging melamine “tainted” drinks and foodstuff daily to the extent that the melamine “taint” ingested would add up to as much as a drink can’s worth? And that’s to be done over a life-time. And even then it is to be in danger’s way, not 100% clad proof of danger.
It’s probably akin to people who don’t wash their cutlery and crockery properly for a life-time and hence are daily ingesting trace amounts of detergent: won’t be a recommendation for healty living but surely wouldn’t amount to slow poisoning?
So it seems to me the worldwide reaction, including that in China, to what happened to the tens of thousands of babies in China smacks of hysteria of the kind prevalent in the Middle Ages when witches were burnt regularly if harvests went wrong or a cloud of locusts attacked.
Sure, thousands of babies who drank the contaminated milk are said to be sick; about half a dozen died.
But could it not be that these poor tykes were poisoned by a batch of milk that had been unfortunately (for the victims) been “enhanced” by a larger than usual dose of melamine?
In fact, now that tests on China’s milk and milk-related products have turned out melamine everywhere, shouldn’t some of the more popular non-China sourced milk and milk-related products be subjected to the same tests to prove and reassure that melamine isn’t a common additive used by food manufacturers?
I think back to the time when I first discovered non-dairy creamer and how much I liked to have it in my coffee, till a colleague told me that it was made from feedstock.
I didn’t believe him but that nevertheless took away my enjoyment. And while I’ve not 4sworn off non-dairy creamers or the 3-in-1 coffee sachets that are nowadays so ubiquitous, I often wonder what they are made of.
In view of the brouhaha caused by the China milk scare, I decided to google Coffee Mate, the grandmother of all non-dairy creamers and this is what I’ve found:
“…It has always seem odd to me that people who spend a specialized price for some specialized brand or blend of coffee would add artificial ingredients to it – particularly non-dairy ‘whiteners’ like Coffee Mate. I decided that they couldn’t all be damaged (those coffee drinkers, that is) so I decided to try the product myself to see if I was missing something. Yes – but it was a lot like missing gallstones, impetigo or leprosy. ….
“Originally developed to create a non-dairy substitute that did not require refrigeration for coffee, Coffee Mate, made and marketed by the international conglomerate, Nestle, it has become ubiquitously available in just about every venue where coffee is sold. Yes, it lightens the color of your coffee. No, it does not require refrigeration and the expiration date on the package currently in front of me is just over two years from now – and this is not a recent purchase.
“A quick look at the ingredients goes a long way towards explaining it’s longevity – if not it’s seeming popularity. The “Original” variety (it is also available in a “Light” version) contains the following plethora of mouth-watering ingredients: Corn syrup solids, Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut, palm kernel or hydrogenated soybean), sodium caseinate (a milk derivative but not a source of lactose), Dipotassium phosphate, mono- and digycerides, artificial flavor and annatto color….
“It is promoted as milk substitute in recipes for many foods and as a generally applicable dairy substitute. So, what is it that is intended to look like (once dissolved), smell and taste like milk – but actually accomplishes non of these – yet remains in most homes, work places and coffee shops?
“Why Coffee Mate of course. A great example of chemistry and food combining to make something valueless that reduces the value of whatever else it comes in contact with. I’m sure there are many better choices. This stuff is simply a chemical white-out for bad coffee…”