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Melamine-Tainted Food Additives Pose No Health Threat, No Regulations Broken

26 February 2009 887 views No Comment

Feb 25 – The German food additive manufacturer at the centre of the melamine food scare in South Korea has said there are no health risks connected to the contamination of its product and that a subsequent recall is a “pure precautionary measure”.

Chemische Fabrik Budenheim (CFB) confirmed to FLEXNEWS today that the measures have been taken after “small traces of melamine compounds” were found in some batches of 5.4 tonnes of ferric pyrophosphate exported to Korea in three shipments over a seven month period between October 2007 and April 2008.

Yesterday, the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) launched an investigation after finding melamine in imported food additives used in the manufacture of iron-fortified products. Officials issued a ban on 12 products that utilise the ingredient.

However, CFB, which employs 950 people worldwide at sites in Germany, Spain, Mexico and the US,  stated that it had not breached any safety regulations, nor did the melamine content in the additive pose a health risk.

CFB said there no global regulatory limit that currently existed for food ingredients – instead specifying that regulations such as the European Union’s maximum level of 2.5 parts per million (ppm) imposed in December 2008 applied to finished food products only.

“As ferric pyrophosphate is not a finished food product, but used as an ingredient in very low amounts, detectable melamine contents of an ingredient will result in undetectable levels of melamine in the finished food product, not violating any current regulation nor causing a health risk,” said the German firm.

It added: “Within a typical application of ferric pyrophosphate as a food ingredient a health risk for the consumer can be excluded due to the very low concentration of the iron supplement in the finished product.

“We calculated, that given the small amount of ferric pyrophosphate for those finished products and if melamine was present in the finished products, it would be at levels 100 times lower than the limit of the European Commission’s guideline.”

The iron phosphate, which  is primarily used as an iron supplement in the food industry,  was manufactured by the company’s Spanish subsidiary, Budenheim Iberica, at its La Zaida plant.

CFB said that it had informed all its Korean customers to block shipments of the food additive, and recalled all affected batches.

The firm said it was currently investigating the possible cause of the contamination.

“Based on the investigation a cross contamination during the relevant production process at the La Zaida plant has to be considered as the cause. Melamine is neither added to nor is melamine being produced during any step of the production process of ferric pyrophosphate,” said a CFB spokesman.

The company said it hadn’t tested for the presence of melamine as its own risk study “didn’t show a relevant risk for a cross contamination during the production process. Hence we did not expect any contact of melamine compounds with ferric pyrophosphate”.

Since the Chinese melamine scandal in September 2008, all batches had undergone “a strict test “ before shipment, said CFB., adding that it did not believe a similar incident could happen again;

“The implementation of the required measures were already set up in accordance with the relevant authorities and major customers to prevent any cross contamination. Those measures include air filters, double doors and locks to prevent any contamination. At the same time every batch has to pass a strict quality control, testing on melamine content.”

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