Blog: Dean BestThe muddle over melamine

Dean Best | 2 October 2008

Don't get me wrong. The melamine food scare in China truly deserves to be described as scandalous.

The deaths of four children and the illness of thousands of others have proved shocking and rightly shaken confidence in China's food. If the allegations of deliberate contamination are proved, than the perpetrators should be brought to justice.

However, amid all the justified anger at the scandal and the questions of what China is going to do to improve safety among its food producers, there has been a certain over-zealousness among food safety authorities around the world – both on China's door-step and here in Europe.

Today (2 October), Nestlé could barely contain its anger at the news that it must delist products on sale in Taiwan. The Swiss food giant has been ordered to pull products from Taiwanese shelves despite, it says, an admission from local authorities that its products are safe by any recognised international standards.

“Such minute traces [of melamine] exist in the natural food cycle," Nestle insists.

True, politicians, and in Asia in particular, where public opinion seems to be very jittery in the wake of the melamine scare, need to be seen to be acting and putting consumer safety first.

However, food safety authorities in the region need to draw up clearer guidelines on the level of melamine allowed in food and work to ensure these rules coincide with internationally-recognised levels.

Otherwise, food companies with no link to the scandal will be unfairly tarnished.


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