25 Sept - Children who eat large amounts of confectionery and biscuits with high levels of milk powder could be consuming levels of melamine more than three times above prescribed EU safety limits the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said today.
But children with a mean consumption of products such as milk toffee, biscuits and chocolate containing milk powder would not exceed these levels, known as the tolerable daily intake (TDI) - which is set at 0.5 mg/kg body weight, the body added.
Europe’s top food watchdog delivered its assessment in the wake of the European Commission’s request for an evaluation of the health risk to its citizens following revelations over the widespread tainting of Chinese milk powder with melamine.
While no Chinese milk powder is imported directly into the EU, EFSA was urged to focus its appraisal on a wide range of imported products that use Chinese milk powder as an ingredient. These include baked goods, snacks and soups, chocolates and confectionary (e.g. milk chocolate), ice cream, infant formula, nutritional products for special use, reconstituted milks and other liquid beverages.
In carrying out its assessment EFSA explained it had developed a number of theoretical exposure scenarios for these products containing milk powder both for adults and children. In the absence of actual data for milk powder, the body said it used the highest value of melamine - approximately 2,500 mg/kg - reported in Chinese infant formula as a basis for worst case scenarios.
Based on this worst case scenario, EFSA said: “Children with high daily consumption of milk toffee, chocolate or biscuits containing high levels of milk powder would exceed the TDI. Children who consume both such biscuits and chocolate could potentially exceed the TDI by up to more than three times.”
However, EFSA noted that it is presently unknown whether such high level exposure exists in Europe.
But the body said that adults in Europe consuming chocolate and biscuits containing milk powder would not exceed the TDI, even in the worst case scenarios.
High levels of melamine can lead to kidney damage. While there is no definite opinion on the time it takes for melamine toxicity to affect the kidney, EFSA said it based its findings “in considering possible health effects which might occur with repeated consumption of melamine contaminated products over a relatively short period”.