U.N. Food Panel Issues New Standards

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 7 (UPI) — The U.N. food standards panel set new limits for the presence of melamine in food, baby formula and animal feed during its conference in Switzerland.

The maximum amount of toxic chemical allowed in baby formula was set at 1 milligram per kilogram, and 2.5 milligrams per kilogram of other food and animal feed, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization said Tuesday in a joint statement.

Melamine is a chemical used many industrial processes, including the manufacture of plastics used for dishes, kitchenware and can coatings. Traces of it ending up unavoidably in food don’t cause health problems, but the substance is toxic at high concentrations, health officials said.

“Establishment of maximum levels will help governments differentiate between low levels of unavoidable melamine occurrence that do not cause health problems, and deliberate adulteration — thereby protecting public health without unnecessary impediments to international trade,” said Martijn Weijtens, chairman of the U.N. Codex Alimentarius Commission’s committee on contaminants in foods.

While not legally binding, the new levels give countries the authority to refuse to allow importation of products with high levels of melamine, the WHO and FAO said.

The U.N. Codex Alimentarius Commission, meeting in Geneva, also developed new hygienic measures for safer fresh salads and seafood, offering guidance in areas such as production, harvesting, packing, processing, storage, distribution, marketing and consumer education.

The commission also published specific advice on controlling bacteria in seafood throughout the food chain, which commission officials said will help to minimize risks.

The Codex Alimentarius (Latin for “food code”) Commission also adopted measures on sampling food for inspection and control analysis.

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