The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week issued the results of “its interim safety and risk assessment of melamine and melamine-related compounds in food, including infant food.” Prompted by “reports of melamine contamination in milk-derived ingredients” manufactured in China, FDA reviewed its scientific literature on melamine toxicity, pointing to “gaps in our scientific knowledge” regarding the threshold at which the industrial chemical becomes dangerous in infants. “There is too much uncertainty to set a level in infant formula and rule out any public health concern,” according to an October 3, 2008, FDA press release, which noted that for other food products, “levels of melamine and melamine-related compounds below 2.5 parts per million do not raise concerns.”

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have reportedly located more melamine-tainted candy from China in New Haven, Connecticut, where two specialty stores were selling the White Rabbit Creamy Candy brand implicated in the global dairy scandal. The state’s consumer protection commissioner, Jerry Farrell Jr., expressed concern that “there may have been bags sold of these before we got to them,” warning consumers to avoid any White Rabbit products not yet removed from store shelves. The investigation followed the discovery of adulterated candies in
California that led the U.S. distributor, Queensway Foods Co. based in Burlingame, Calif., to voluntarily recall the sweets pending further research. See The Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2008; The New York Times, October 2, 2008.

Chinese administrators have also added 15 dairy processors to the list of companies that allegedly sold products laced with the industrial additive. More than 53,000 Chinese infants have reportedly experienced kidney stones or renal failure after consuming contaminated infant formula, leading the parents of injured children to consider filing lawsuits against the businesses. State media sources have accused these manufacturers of seeking to collude with local officials in concealing the problem before the Beijing Olympics. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, however, has contested these reports, saying that when the government first received word of the widespread illnesses, “there wasn’t the slightest cover-up.” He added that China will work to “deepen foreign-related economic structural reform; improve foreign-related economic
laws, regulations and policies; expand market access; strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights and provide a better environment for foreign business in China.” See The Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2008.

In addition, several multinational companies have pulled products made with milk-derived ingredients from China and switched suppliers in emerging markets. Cadbury PLC has apparently identified melamine traces in its chocolates sold in Asian stores, leading the company to recall products originating at its Beijing plant. H.J. Heinz Co. also reportedly announced that it will no longer use the implicated milk in infant formula destined for Hong Kong, while Nestle SA has initiated a review of its milk-buying procedures in China. “Nobody can look
for everything,” one Cadbury spokesperson said, pointing to preliminary tests that “cast doubt on the integrity of a range of our products manufactured in China.” See The Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2008.

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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