EFSA assesses possible risks related to melamine in composite foods from China

Following recent events in China, the European Commission asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to provide urgent scientific advice on health risks for European consumers related to the possible presence of melamine[1] in composite foods containing milk or milk products originating from China.

EFSA’s scientists today issued a statement saying that if adults in Europe were to consume chocolates and biscuits containing contaminated milk powder, they would not exceed the TDI (Tolerable Daily Intake) of 0.5 mg/kg body weight, even in worst case scenarios[2].

Children with a mean consumption of biscuits, milk toffee and chocolate made with such milk powder would also not exceed the TDI. However, in worst case scenarios with the highest level of contamination, children with high daily consumption of milk toffee, chocolate or biscuits containing high levels of milk powder would exceed the TDI. Children who consume both such biscuits and chocolate could potentially exceed the TDI by up to more than three times.

High levels of melamine can primarily affect the kidneys. EFSA applied the TDI of 0.5 mg/kg body weight for melamine in a specific case of contamination in 2007[3].

The Commission requested EFSA to focus its assessment on biscuits and chocolate which contain milk powder as such products can be imported from China. EFSA developed theoretical exposure scenarios based on European consumption figures[4] of biscuits and chocolate. In the absence of available data for contaminated milk powder, EFSA also used the highest value of melamine, reported in Chinese infant formula as a basis for worst case scenarios. EFSA stressed that it is not known at the moment whether such theoretical high level exposure scenarios could occur in Europe.

See also:

[1] Melamine is a chemical compound commonly used in the manufacture of resins, plastics and glues. In Europe, melamine is approved for manufacturing plastic materials and articles, but the addition of melamine in food and animal feed is prohibited.
[2] EFSA used the highest value of melamine (approximately 2,500 mg/kg) reported in Chinese infant formula and consumption at the 95th percentile as a basis for worst case scenarios.
[3] Because there is uncertainty with respect to the time scale for development of kidney damage, EFSA used the TDI of 0.5 mg/kg body weight which is protective for exposure over a lifetime in considering possible effects of exposure to melamine over a relatively short period, such as might occur with repeated consumption of melamine contaminated products
[4] Panel evaluated data from the Concise European Consumption Database, the CAOBISCO industry association; data on levels of melamine in infant formula reported by the Chinese State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
 

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