Product News: Applied Biosystems Helps China Respond to Melamine Contamination in Dairy Products

29 Jan 2009

Applied Biosystems, part of Life Technologies Corporation, a provider of innovative life science research and discovery solutions, has announced that the Chinese government and two leading food manufacturers are implementing its mass spectrometry-based technologies for food analysis as part of efforts to identify and contain the spread of melamine in the food supply.

Melamine contamination in dairy products is getting widespread attention following recent media reports of outbreaks in China and other countries. More than 94,000 infants and young children have been treated for health issues related to tainted infant formula and other products. China is responding to this issue with a series of actions that include increased food safety testing.

Melamine is a synthetic substance generally used in making plastics and fertilizer. The nitrogen-rich molecule is sometimes illegally added to consumer and animal food products in order to increase their apparent protein content. Melamine is known to cause renal and urinary problems in humans and animals; therefore, its use in food production is universally banned.

The Chinese government and industry are taking action to protect a broad range of food products and animal feed, through enhanced testing procedures that require laboratory instrumentation capable of precise identification of melamine and other contaminants. 

The Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and two dairy manufacturers – Shanxi Gucheng and Yashili Dairy Company – are leading the efforts to establish the highest standards of food safety. These organisations recently deployed five API 3200™ mass spectrometry systems, which scan, identify and measure the quantity of various food contaminants. These systems deliver high sensitivity, selectivity, speed and reliability of results in laboratory analysis, enabling rapid detection and ultimately stronger enforcement of food safety regulations.

“Life Technologies’ vision is to apply our depth of scientific technologies throughout the global community to help improve the human condition,” said Greg Lucier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Life Technologies. “In a recent meeting with the Chinese Minister of Health, Dr. Zhu Chen, I conveyed our readiness to use the full spectrum of Applied Biosystems and Invitrogen-branded solutions in support of the Chinese government’s efforts in food safety testing initiatives. We are committed to working with governments and industry to address some of society’s most critical challenges through the application of biology.”

These recent deployments of AB SCIEX mass spectrometry systems expand a growing network of systems, specialised software and test methods, developed specifically for China. These solutions are being utilised by the government at various branches of the China Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureaus, contract testing laboratories and food manufacturers.

The issue of melamine contamination has not been limited to China. Incidents have been reported in a number of countries, including its recent discovery in trace amounts in infant formula in the United States. This has led to a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration threshold of one part per million of melamine for infant formula to be considered safe for consumption. Applied Biosystems/MDS Analytical Technologies’ mass spectrometry systems, including the AB SCIEX 5500 systems and the API 3200 system, are capable of identifying melamine at the lowest possible levels of detection.

“Food safety is one of the most important issues for government agencies and industry around the world,” said Laura Lauman, President of Life Technologies’ mass spectrometry systems division. “AB SCIEX mass spectrometry solutions are playing a critical role in helping China and other countries, including the United States, to ensure the safety of food being produced for consumption inside their borders and abroad.”