Through its notification dated 5th January, 2016 the FSSAI has added a new regulation to the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, toxins and Residues) Regulations, 2011. The new standards have been regulated after considering the objections and suggestions received with regard to the earlier July 2015, notification on melamine in milk and milk products. According to the amendment a new section has been added to the regulation called ‘Other contaminants’ in the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, toxins and Residues) Regulations, 2011. The new amended regulations will now be called the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, toxins and Residues) Amendment Regulations, 2016. The new regulation deals with the maximum levels of melamine in infant formula as well as other milk products. Once notified in the Official Gazette, the regulation will come into force with immediate effect.
The table below gives the maximum levels of melamine that can be found in the mentioned food products. These limits are the same as given in the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
|Sl.No.||Name of the contaminant||Food||Maximum level(mg/kg)|
|1.||Melamine||Powdered infant formula||1.0|
|Liquid infant formula||0.15|
The World health organisation (WHO) has defined melamine as “an organic base chemical most commonly found in the form of white crystals rich in nitrogen. Melamine is used in plastics, adhesives, countertops, dishware, whiteboards etc. However, there is a reason why melamine is used to adulterate milk. When water is added to raw milk it dilutes it and this lowers the protein content of the milk. Companies that use this diluted milk in liquid and powdered infant formula check the protein level of the raw milk by testing it for nitrogen content. If melamine has been added to the milk it will show a good level of nitrogen and therefore the milk will pass muster as being protein rich.
Melamine-contaminated milk can lead to kidney failure in infants. Melamine on its own has low toxicity. However, cyanuric acid is sometimes present in melamine powder and when the two make a combination it can lead to the formation of crystals. Once these crystals are formed they block the small tubes in the kidney which leads to kidney failure and even death.
The methods used to test melamine earlier were rather complex, time-consuming and expensive. Recently a visibility test, which uses gold nanoparticles to detect melamine, was developed. If the milk is contaminated with melamine the gold nanoparticles will change colour from wine red to blue. The WHO has asked companies to find a swift method for detecting melamine. So now new screening equipment has been developed that can be used to detect concentrations of melamine in milk down to 0.1mg/kg and the sample analysis takes just few minutes. In many countries food manufacturers who deal with milk and milk products now use the newer screening technologies to ensure that the melamine is within the regulated limits. However, screening does not always catch very low limits of melamine, especially as required for liquid milk formula, so samples are also sent to accredited food testing laboratories.