Food safety

Expert meeting to review toxicological aspects of melamine and cyanuric acid, 1-4 December 2008

Held in collaboration with FAO and supported by Health Canada
Ottawa, Canada

Actions taken by INFOSAN

INFOSAN has been working directly with the Ministry of Health (MoH), China, in collaboration with the WHO Country Office in China. Through the INFOSAN Emergency surveillance system, WHO had learned of the contamination of infant formula with melamine and requested further information about the event on 11 September 2008. MoH confirmed on 12 September 2008 that incriminated products from the Sanlu Company had not been exported and provided WHO with a description of the development of the event. Through further interaction between INFOSAN and MoH the issue of potential other use of the contaminated milk powder as well as parallel (illegal) distribution of contaminated milk powder was raised. An INFOSAN Emergency Alert was subsequently distributed to the entire network on 16 September 2008 alerting INFOSAN members of the event and of the possibility of contaminated products finding their way to other markets.

Since then, INFOSAN Emergency Alert Updates have been issued regularly to keep the entire network informed of developments in relation to this event, providing additional information to Member States to help them better understand and assess the potential risks associated with melamine contaminated products, such as:

  • list of other products aside from infant formula found to be contaminated with melamine
  • information about the toxicity of melamine
  • analytical methods to test for melamine
  • list of international laboratories to test for melamine
  • limits for melamine set by different national authorities

On several occasions, INFOSAN has also provided support to countries which have sought additional assistance from WHO in relation to this event, providing them with further relevant information that has been useful for authorities in managing the melamine incident within their countries.

As of 3 December 2008, INFOSAN has issued eleven INFOSAN Emergency Alert Updates in relation to the melamine event. Four specific alerts were also issued to countries which had received products found to be positive for melamine in order to notify the food safety authorities in those countries.