The Checkout

All Chinese Food Imports Containing Dairy Held Up at U.S. Border

Annys Shin

The Food and Drug Administration has begun stopping imports of Chinese dairy and dairy-based products from entering the country in an effort to keep out food contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine.

Melamine is the chemical at the heart of the Chinese infant formula scandal that has killed at least two infants and sickened more than 50,000. Scraps of melamine, which is used to make plastic and fertilizer, were added to milk as a way of boosting the milk's protein content in order to pass quality tests. The same thing was done with wheat gluten, which was then used to make pet food and sparked a wave of recalls last year after thousands of pets died.

FDA officials, who had been spot checking markets for melamine-tainted foods and recalling select products, said they expanded their import advisory in part because of intelligence from overseas counterparts.

No need to panic and throw out all the food in your house that is made with milk powder, at least not yet.

Under the hold and test policy initiated Thursday, FDA stops products at the border, then requires the importer to test it and prove it doesn't have melamine before allowing it to be distributed

As for the rest of the food chain, when the infant formula scandal broke in China this fall, FDA sent out people to check Asian markets around the country for Chinese-made infant formula and were happy to have found none. They also checked with infant formula makers in the United States who assured them they don't source dairy ingredients from China. Since then, FDA has continued to check markets for products that might contain melamine and some products have been recalled.

FDA officials said they are acting even though they've determined that the chance of adverse health effects from ingesting melamine in finished food products is low.

The kinds of foods that are being held include: cheese, soft candy, cat and dog food, and something called iodinated casein--an additive used to iboost milk-giving in cows. (What pantry is complete without it?)

You can read the full import alert here.

By Annys Shin |  November 13, 2008; 2:22 PM ET Annys Shin
Previous: Federal Safety Regulators Say Toys Safer than Ever | Next: Monday Round Up


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ALL Food from China should be blocked.

Posted by: AlbyVA | November 13, 2008 3:52 PM

more fast action by the bush administration and the fda. who said bush is checking out early?

Posted by: bnglfn | November 13, 2008 4:27 PM

Please block any food from China unless it comes with a neon disclosure on the label. I don't want to eat toxins.

Posted by: SarahBB | November 13, 2008 4:44 PM

I'm with AlbyVA all the way.

Posted by: josheyre | November 13, 2008 4:56 PM

Seems like everyone still wants to bash the entire country of China for a few bad apples. That's like China blaiming the entire USA for the bank bailout and the automaker bailout. How many people you figure are going to die as a result of high healthcare costs in USA?
We need a little perspective, people. Not stupid comments.
Fix the problem instead of pushing off the blame on the wrong place.

Posted by: mikeMM | November 13, 2008 4:59 PM

'Bout time.

I've stopped purchasing products that might have been tainted with Chinese dairy, in particular, certain brands of chocolate.

Those companies lost my trust.

Too bad they didn't take an example from the old Johnson and Johnson Tylenol model, admitting error, and fixing the problem.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | November 13, 2008 5:12 PM

Until the FDA is fully funded and manned I think we need to ban all Chinese food and products. There are too many incidents of tainted or poisoned products not only in China itself, but they are making their way around the world.

My personal belief is that we need to rebuild our manufacturing plants and put the MADE IN AMERICA label back where it belongs, on every product purchased in America.

Posted by: justjunkemail | November 13, 2008 5:12 PM

ALL products should be required to list their country of origin, so that consumers can choose whether or not to buy stuff from that country.

Posted by: dmm1 | November 13, 2008 5:17 PM

When all the free trade lies were being pushed on the American people, one of the lies was that world trade and the necessary free trade agreements would provide a guaranteed supply of products that are either not produced or produced in limited quantities in the importing countries themselves. This would include bananas, coffee and cocoa from South and Central America, cotton from Egypt and Africa etc and we and the other industrialized countries would provide refrigerators, machinery and other industrial and durable consumer goods.

Of course, the majority of Americans knew this to be a lie. We knew that no matter how hard Juan Valdez and his little burro georgie worked, he'd never be able to pick enough coffee beans to buy an Amana double door refrigerator with automatic ice cubes and a cold water spout. WE, the American people, knew that Juan Valdez didn't even have electricity and probably lacked running water to begin with. At the time, Chinese peasants weren't part of the equation.

Well, it turns out the free trade lies were just a scam to cover the corporate/government plan to pit American workers against the low wage, zero benefit workers in Third World countries where environmental and worker protections are nonexistant, while at the same time shipping our jobs and entire industries to these low wage countries.

The United States no longer makes refrigerators or much of anything else and Juan Valdez who is now an illegal alien living in Los Angeles and whose burro died after eating poisoned Chinese burro food is on welfare along with the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, homes and futures to Free Trade.

What does this have to do with poisoned Chinese food products you may ask.


Posted by: rcubedkc | November 13, 2008 5:22 PM

Why the hell do we need Chinese milk products to begin with, with or without melamine?

I had friends visit from Russia and Ukraine this past summer. They wanted to do some shopping - the dollar was particularly low against their currencies then. No matter where I took them they wrinkled their noses. "We can buy all the Chinese sh...t at home. There's no point buying it in the US", they said.
I was genuinely embarrassed.
Finally, we had to give up going to retail stores and find some American and Canadian stuff on the Web.

Couple of things they were happy to be able to buy in retail stores though were some US-made auto parts, electric guitar strings and cables, several genuine Stetson hats and Frye boots.

Look at Germany - they don't manufacture "scheisse" and they don't generally buy it. They don't have raw resources, except some coal. And they're doing just fine, with health insurance for all citizens and no homelessness.

I know people there who are barely getting by on welfare due to inability to work for health reasons (bad auto accident). They certainly don't go out to eat anymore and they don't have a car. Nor can they afford entertainment such as concerts or movies, or even an extra pair of pants or shoes. Yet, they are not worried about losing a roof over their head and they don't have to worry about medical bills. And their kids are getting the same good public education as when their parents worked.
If Germany can afford to take of such people, why can't we?

Is importing cheap Chinese crap the American answer to our social problems?

Posted by: VMR1 | November 13, 2008 5:23 PM

And mikemm. Talk about stupid comments. Nobody is bashing an entire country over a few bad apples people are bashing an entire country about poisoned dairy products.

Sit down and have a nice malted ya numbskull.

Posted by: rcubedkc | November 13, 2008 5:32 PM

Watch how the Democrats deal with China and other polluting, slave labor, toxic goods producers.....

Think import restrictions will be tied to reform in these and other areas?

Think that's why W will only bail out US car makers if we sign a trade deal with Columbia whose government has the unhappy practice of killing labor leaders?

Change is on the way, and if not, turn a few screws. While not the only market in the world, China, India and others need access - and we sell a ton of capital goods stuff stuff to them. Still we buy a hueh, huge load more of their exports than they buy of ours.

Wanna get the US economy moving again?

Gee, maybe there should be big bucks spent by them on our stuff instead of the US simply watching them replicate and out compete with US companies thru incredibly low wage rates.

Think Obama and the Dems will take this on?

Posted by: bgreen2224 | November 13, 2008 5:36 PM

Require the importer to test it? Isn't that like handing your banker a wad of bills for deposit and expecting the correct number to be added to your account every time?

Bushies still believe people can regulate themselves. Despite a five-thousand-year history of the world telling us it has never before been done.

Posted by: infuse | November 13, 2008 5:50 PM

The power of multinational corporations and the impotency (more perhaps, complicity) of our government is crystal clear, by this country's refusal to adopt country of origin disclosures for all the products we buy.

Consumers are entitled to choose what they purchase and part of that choice includes knowing where a product or its components were produced.

I would gladly forgo all food products with ingredients sourced from China, but as of now, big business has decided I'm not entitled to protect my health interests.

Their message is clear: just give us your money and shut the hell up!

Posted by: dlkimura | November 13, 2008 6:22 PM

i have stopped buying all food/beauty products(shampoo, nail polish) that is made in china. I stopped when the tainted dog food problem occurred.

My one question is... how do you know where a product was made when it says 'distributed by'...instead of 'made in'..??

Posted by: ca123 | November 13, 2008 6:26 PM

i am not prone to infections, but from time to time i get minor infections from splinters that are easily treated with draining and the application of alcohol.

after purchasing a Homer harmonica manufactured in the PRC, i came down with a very, very nasty infection on my lip. this infection is like no other infection i've ever had, let alone an infection that i have heard of, except when i was in high school when a neighborhood friend had a deep and severe staff infection.

whether the infection can be attributed to the harmonica remains my question.

i can read, write, and speak mandarin chinese.
i know a little bit about the ROC and PRC.
i've walked on PRC soil and talked to the ROC navy.
i've complained previously about all things made in PRC on WP.
i'm in favor of protectionist policies, at least until we're over this hump.
i despise the quality of products manufactured in the PRC and sold in the USA.
i've considered starting a business "MADE IN THE USA" in order to undermine wallyworld.

with this said, is it safe for anyone to use any product manufactured in the PRC?

Posted by: egalitaire | November 13, 2008 8:01 PM

I live in China and have raised my family here for nearly a decade.

In mine and my friends opinions, blocking Chinese imports in the US and other countries is very helpful to all Chinese families.

Blocking suspected tainted products will further force the Chinese government to act sooner rather than later in cleaning up the extremely corrupt dairy, food, and medical product industries that abound here.

We must look somewhere in the world to a responsible country that can highlight such blatant poisoning of food and medicine for profit and punish the governments that allow such harmful, criminal behavior -- for the sake of our children in the very least.

The USA and it's powerful consumer base still has such an ability, and we applaud the FDA for taking this action and hope it continues to be as vigilant in the future.

Posted by: saj_pratt | November 13, 2008 8:31 PM

To mikeMM and other defending Chinese food imports,
The Chinese themselves have admitted their dairy supplies and manufacturers are contaminated with melamine. That nation may be underwriting a large portion of the U.S. debt but that gives them no right to subject us to sham dairy products. That crap stays at the inspection stations, and likely gets dumped until China cleans up their act. The same thing happened with U.S. beef in Korea and Japan and rightly so. Communist China is a corrupt place and needs to understand the consequences of that official corruption. Just like the corrupt U.S. FDA and Bush Administration needs to learn the results of dumping downer cows on Asia. What goes around comes around. I thank the Lord I have not eaten any beef, pork, or poultry from any source or foreign dairy products since 1978. The producers simply have no scruples.

Posted by: thw2001 | November 13, 2008 11:46 PM

It’s not just food. According to an excellent NYT article by Gardiner Harris published October 31 2008:
“Last year, generic drug applications to the F.D.A. listed 1,154 plants providing active pharmaceutical ingredients: 43 percent of them were in China.”
“in 2002, the Pharmaceutical Association, a Chinese trade group, estimated that as much as 8 percent of over-the-counter drugs sold in China are counterfeit.”
There are virtually no inspections of plants in China. Earlier this year 81 people died from FDA approved Chinese made heparin, which turned out to be contaminated because Chinese manufacturers substituted a cheap fake for one of the ingredients. (Sound familiar?) It’s only a matter of time; many more people will die.
Here’s the link.

Posted by: swebeck2000 | November 14, 2008 12:03 AM

rcubedkc, I don't think you are smart enough to understand the concept of placing blaim on the guilty, so I will forgive your stupidity and poor people skills.

Posted by: mikeMM | November 14, 2008 3:38 PM

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