UK laboratory triples its melamine testing services

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Milk

Reading Scientific Services Limited (RSSL) said that it is adding a third technique to the armoury of tests it can use to detect melamine.

RSSL announced earlier this week that it had developed two test methods for melamine based on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved screening and quantitative analysis using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS).

According to Jacinta George, commercial development manager, RSSL, the enzyme linked immunoassay (ELIZA) technique it is now also offering food importers, food ingredient companies and food manufacturers for melamine detection of their products will enable an initial "look and see" method of testing for the contaminant.

George told that the addition of the ELISA technique was informed by its objective to seek out all possible methods for detection of the contaminant.

A global recall phenomenon, mounting numbers of products contaminated by melamine are turning up all over the world.

Companies have been scrambling to establish independent testing of their products after it emerged that Chinese testing was unreliable.

George said that the methods RSSL has devised can be applied to a variety of different matrices including infant milk formula, milk powder and chocolate milk, and will enable products to be validated for safety in regards to any potential melamine contamination.

While 70 per cent of the laboratory’s customers are UK and Ireland based, George said the sampling service is also used by food companies and importers in the rest of Europe and other geographies.

She added that RSSL can deliver a result from a sample within two to ten working days depending on the particular client’s requirements, and that samples for testing can be sent to the laboratory by courrier.


Meanwhile, leading chocolate manufacturer Cadbury, as a precautionary measure, recently recalled 11 Chinese-made products from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia, while Reuters reported last week that a Hong Kong laboratory found Cadbury Dairy Milk Cookies Chocolate Bulk Pack, 5kg, contained 6.9 parts per million (ppm) of melamine, and Cadbury Dairy Milk Hazelnut Chocolate Bulk Pack, 5 kg, had 56 ppm.

Also last week, Lotte Koala biscuits was withdrawn from sale in various European countries after tests in the Netherlands found them to contain 4.98mg of melamine per kilogram, almost twice as much as the EU’s 2.5mg limit.

This prompted the UK government to also recall the biscuits, which had been distributed to Chinese supermarkets and other independent retailers across the country.

Meanwhile, the Dutch Food Safety Authority (VWA) released a statement which stressed that the chances of becoming ill from consuming the biscuits were very slim.

“Only with daily consumption of two kilograms of the biscuits will children enter the danger zone,”​ it said.

European approach

This conclusion is based on a theoretical study conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to test the EU’s established tolerated daily intake level of melamine. EFSA released its results last week stating that in its opinion it is safe to consume up to 0.5mg of melamine per kilogram of bodyweight daily.

In the EU, all Chinese products containing more than 15 per cent milk, or where the percentage of milk content cannot be established, are being examined for melamine. French authorities have gone a step further, requiring that all products containing Chinese dairy ingredients are withdrawn from sale.

Other products which have been withdrawn following detection of high levels of melamine include White Rabbit Creamy Candies, Unilever’s Lipton Milk Tea and Mr. Brown 3-in-1 instant coffee.

Four babies have died in China and approximately 53,000 children have become ill after consuming milk powder tainted with the chemical.

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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