EU to restrict Chinese soy imports
The EU decided to limit Chinese food imports after traces of melamine were found in soya products.4 December 2008
BRUSSELS – The European Union (EU) decided on Wednesday to extend restrictions on Chinese food imports after high levels of the toxic chemical melamine were found in soya products.
After banning Chinese milk products in September, the 27-nation bloc has now decided to prohibit imports of Chinese food containing soya that is destined for infants or small children, the European Commission said.
Imports of all other feed and food products containing soya from China would have to be tested and only products containing less that 2.5 milligrams of melamine per kilogramme would be allowed into the EU.
Under the decisions, shipments of Chinese-made baking powder into the EU will also have to be tested after high levels of melamine were found.
The restrictions will be made formal in the coming days after EU food safety experts backed European Commission proposals for the measures on Wednesday, a commission spokeswoman said.
In late September, the EU banned all imports of Chinese milk-related products for children such as biscuits and chocolate after thousands of Chinese children fell ill due to milk tainted by melamine.
China said Monday that a total of 294,000 children had fallen ill from consuming dairy products containing melamine, with 154 of them still in serious condition.
Melamine is a chemical normally used to make plastics but it emerged that it had been routinely mixed into Chinese milk and dairy products to give the impression that they having higher protein content.
The scandal has quickly become a global problem, with Chinese dairy products around the world recalled or banned after they were found to be tainted with the chemical. However no melamine-related deaths have been reported overseas.
In 2007, the 27-nation European Union imported about 68,000 tonnes of Chinese soya products or products containing soya with a total value of about EUR 34 million, according to the commission.
Of the total, 17,500 tonnes were soya sauce while the rest was mostly made up of soyabeans and feed, the commission spokeswoman said.
Melamine can cause kidney stones if taken in excessive levels and babies in China who were fed tainted milk powder suffered the worst because they consumed so much of the chemical.
While the melamine scare in China had centred on milk, the focus has begun broadening towards other food products after it emerged that some Chinese eggs also had traces of the substance.
The discovery raised concerns that it could be in many other Chinese foods, with the suspicion that it may have been mixed into other livestock feed.
[AFP / Expatica]