CHINA: Hong Kong Finds Tainted Chinese Fish Feed

Publisher Name: 
The New York Times

SHANGHAI - Hong Kong food inspectors have found fish feed imported from China contaminated with high levels of melamine, a toxic chemical that has recently been blamed for tainting Chinese-produced milk, eggs and other foods.

The
Hong Kong government finding, reported late Tuesday, is the latest
indication that melamine, a chemical used to make plastic and
fertilizer, has seeped into large parts of China's food and feed
industry, posing potential health hazards to consumers.

In
September, melamine-tainted milk was blamed for sickening more than
50,000 children in China and causing the deaths of at least four, many
of whom suffered from kidney ailments. That set off global recalls of
Chinese dairy products and a nationwide investigation into whether
China's food chain was tainted with melamine.

The government has
moved aggressively to deal with the scandal, blanketing the country
with food inspectors, but melamine-tainted food and feed products
continue to turn up in neighboring regions that trade with China.

Hong
Kong officials have discovered melamine in milk, eggs and other food
products imported from China, and are now testing a wide range of food
and feed products for melamine.

Inspectors said fish feed
imported from Fujian Province in southern China was found to have 6.6
parts per million, more than twice the level of melamine deemed safe
for food. The acceptable level in Hong Kong and the United States is
2.5 parts per million.

But Hong Kong officials also said in an
announcement posted on a government Web site that melamine-tainted fish
feed would probably not pose serious health problems for people who
consumed fish because consumers would not be directly eating the
melamine.

As a precaution, inspectors asked Hong Kong fish farms not to use feed contaminated with melamine.

In
late October, newspapers in Vietnam reported that tests on 240 tons of
fish feed imported from China had found traces of melamine, but not
high levels.

Last year, thousands of pets in the United States
were sickened after eating pet food that contained melamine-tainted
ingredients from China. That led to the largest pet food recall in the United States.

China
has accused rogue food and feed dealers of intentionally spiking milk
and food supplies with melamine because the chemical fools tests that
measure protein levels. Some dealers use melamine as a cheap feed
substitute, perhaps not knowing its dangers.

But in interviews
last spring, after the pet food scandal, melamine scrap dealers - who
sell the melamine waste material to anyone who will buy it - admitted
that feed companies often bought melamine and that it was widely used
in the fish feed industry.

AMP Section Name:Food and Agriculture