Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on October 2, 2008
The poisoned milk scandal keeps spreading. Today Taiwanese government officials yanked Nestle products from store shelves after tests showed trace amounts of melamine, the industrial chemical added to Chinese milk. According to the Associated Press Taiwan’s Health Minister, Yeh Ching-chuan, said Nestle powdered milk from northeastern China’s Heilongjiang province had between 0.3 and 0.85 parts per million of melamine. “Such minor doses of melamine will not affect people’s health,” Yeh said, “but we will take them off shelves according to our recommended procedures.”
Nestle argues that the move is unnecessary. In a statement sent to reporters today, the Swiss giant said “the company immediately complied with authorities’ request, even though the Department of Health itself confirmed that these products are absolutely safe by any recognized international standards. Moreover, these products had already received official certification as being safe from the Department of Health.”
The company also takes a stab at trying to contain a melamine panic among health officials. Yes, there’s some of the chemical in Nestle’s milk, the company says, but the amounts not only are so small as to be insignificant to health, they also would probably be there regardless of what unscrupulous Chinese dairy industry players did. “According to international experts the levels of melamine detected in these products by Taiwan’s Department of Health are so minute that they are almost certainly present in any food product anywhere in the world. Such minute traces exist in the natural food cycle. Indeed, the EU and the US have long had limits for the presence of melamine in food and the WHO recently issued recommendations which were used by other countries including New Zealand to set their own standards. The 0.05 ppm detection limit currently applied in Taiwan is up to 50 times below recognized and accepted international standards.”
Perhaps Nestle does have science on its side. But right now the science doesn’t much matter. Given the shocking news from China and the heartbreaking photos of Chinese babies suffering from melamine-induced kidney stones, I seriously doubt Nestle or any other company will be able to make much headway in stopping the momentum against Chinese-made dairy products.