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Medical News & Perspectives
February 4, 2009

Melamine Scandals Highlight Hazards of Increasingly Globalized Food Chain

JAMA. 2009;301(5):473-475. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.35

As melamine contamination of human and animal food has become an ongoing public health concern, the issue has demonstrated the challenges associated with ensuring the safety of an increasingly complex and international food supply.

Melamine, a widely used chemical found in such products as hard plastic dishes and the linings of some food containers, emerged as a public health concern in 2007 when an investigation into how pet food adulterated with melamine sickened and killed pets revealed that the chemical could be harmful under certain circumstances. Since then, more than 50 000 Chinese infants have been hospitalized and at least 6 have died after consuming infant formula adulterated with high levels of melamine, and a variety of food products of Chinese origin have also been found to be contaminated.