Melamine, poisons and the misappliance of science

The takeaways from rogue Chinese food additives


An additional lesson, as if any were actually needed, was furnished by Baxter International, a US company which had worked through another US partner, Scientific Protein Laboratories, in outsourcing heparin production to China. Heparin is used in kidney dialysis patients and certain operations. Tainted with an altered form of chondroitin sulfate, the contaminant, cheaply produced from pig cartilage, was probably chosen because it cost about one twentieth of actual heparin isolation. It also had great similarity to the anti-clotting agent in cursory testing. In the US, Baxter's subpotent contaminated heparin is thought to have caused at least nineteen deaths.

From these incidents, one can tell there's a bit of actual science being maliciously applied in the course of finding cheap things with a certain utility in stepping on food additives and drugs for increased profit.

With the case of melamine, there is probably a range of doses of it which, cynically, are sub-optimal for the generation of kidney stones and sand in the urine in mammals. When someone becomes too greedy or careless and the amount is pooched too high in tons of baby milk powder, there's a disaster which exposes the operation, and the arrests start.

Oops, there goes the supply chain...

In this arrangement for profit, bad elements in China (as well as western firms) have cooperatively achieved subversion of what are supposed to be trusted sources. Islamic terrorists can only dream about such inside access to critical supply chains. The desire for profit is a much better motivator than the desire to create simple terror.

So as melamine criss crosses the globe in Ritz crackers for Korea, cookies for Holland, in chocolate for Cadburys, in White Rabbit Creamy Candies for the Asian markets in California, and in the products of internationally manufacturing American food giants like Kraft, Heinz and Nabisco, what's that stabbing pain in your lower back?

Oh, it's just a twinge of the old lumbago, you think.

Bootnote: "Country-of-origin labeling finally became a reality on Tuesday for meats, produce and some nuts sold in American supermarkets," reported the New York Times this week. But many processed foods are exempt. Guess what kinds of foods melamine gets into. Rhetorical question, obviously. ®

George Smith is a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological, and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighbourhood hardware stores.


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