The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Gluten and Melamine: NYT Update

CountryBoy's picture

Gluten and Melamine: NYT Update

The NY Times Business Section ran the following as its lead article today.  You may find it of interest if you are interested in the topic.

Ever since pet food contaminated with an industrial chemical was traced to shipments of wheat flour from China, American officials have concentrated on cracking down on imports.

It turns out the problem was closer to home, too.

Yesterday, federal officials announced that a manufacturing plant in Ohio was using the same banned substance, melamine, to make binding agents that ended up in feed for farmed fish, shrimp and livestock.

The problem surfaced after a distributor, concerned about what was in its feed binders after the reports from China, sent the product to a private laboratory for testing.

The melamine was used by Tembec BTLSR, a Canadian forest products company with a small chemical plant in Toledo, to make binding agents that keep pellets of animal feed together, said Dr. David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food protection at the Food and Drug Administration.

Melamine is not permitted in food or pet food products. In the last few months, pet food contaminated with melamine, all traced back to China, sickened or killed thousands of pets in the United States.

Dr. Acheson said the levels of melamine and melamine-related compounds in Tembec’s products were far lower than that found in wheat flour from China that ended up killing the pets. Consequently, the authorities said that they thought the contamination did not appear to pose a risk to human health.

Nevertheless, the F.D.A. issued a voluntary recall of finished feed made with two binding agents: Aquabond and Aqua-Tec II, which are made by Tembec and used in fish and shrimp feed. A third product, Xtra-Bond, which is made by a Colorado firm called Uniscope using Tembec ingredients, was not recalled because the levels of melamine were low.

Uniscope is the distributor of all three products. Aquabond and Aqua-Tec II are sold mostly overseas; Xtra-Bond is sold domestically.

Agency officials are alerting the foreign governments that received the products, Dr. Acheson said.

The investigation began on May 18 when Uniscope alerted the agency that it had discovered melamine in the testing. Dr. Acheson said that the investigation was in its early stages and that some questions remained unanswered, like how long Tembec had used melamine in its products and the extent of the contamination.

“What Tembec knew, didn’t know, what their activities were, is part of the investigation,” Dr. Acheson said, at a news conference. Earlier, he said, “It’s hard to believe that a manufacturer of pet food would not know about this.”

Federal officials would not say whether they would pursue criminal charges in the Tembec case. They said that they had already been contacting domestic manufacturers to make sure they were aware of the sources of their ingredients.

John Valley, Tembec’s executive vice president for business development and corporate affairs, said his company thought that Uniscope was shipping the binders overseas for use as shrimp feed. Once the F.D.A. told it that the binders were being used domestically, Tembec stopped making them from melamine, Mr. Valley said.

Tembec makes resins and certain chemicals for industrial uses, including melamine. Mr. Valley said Uniscope was the only customer that used its products for animal feed.

Asked why it was all right to use melamine in feed for shrimp overseas but not in the United States, he said: “Melamine has just really had a focus that’s come upon it. A lot of companies and agencies are reviewing certain applications of melamine.”

The pet food scandal has led to increased scrutiny of all food imports, particularly those from China, and threatened trade relations. Some members of Congress have demanded tougher inspections of food imports from China.

“This recent incident goes to show that we apparently have some bad actors out there,” said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia. “It can happen in the United States.”

But Mr. Doyle pointed out that the incidence of food illness remains relatively rare in the United States. The problem with the Tembec binders surfaced after Uniscope, a company based in Johnstown, Colo., decided to test the binders.

“They just asked themselves, ‘I wonder what’s in this stuff? I wonder if we have anything in here that shouldn’t be in here?’ ” said Charlie Russell, a company spokesman. “So they sent some samples to a lab.”

Tembec has been a supplier to Uniscope since January 2004, Mr. Russell said. Employees at Uniscope, which was founded in 1975 and is family owned, thought that they were buying a resin that was fit for animal consumption, Mr. Russell said.

Uniscope sells the binders to feed manufacturers that mix them with grain and other ingredients to make food pellets for livestock and fish, he said. The binders are sold both domestically and abroad, Mr. Russell said.

According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tembec acquired BTLSR Toledo, a custom manufacturer of spray-dry resins, for $8.5 million in 2003

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I was wondering where the idea popped up to use melamine with food in the first place.  Now I can see it started out as a binder for feed pellets at very low levels.  Later these low levels increased and melamine was being miss-used as a feed filler/binder in China with no real control until animals started getting sick and dying in the USA.  One would think it would have put an end to melamine use in the food chain.  

The Canadians have been my best source of information so far on the recent milk melamine contamination.  The lack of communication, warnings, and control in China is so frustrating.  Korea is also overwhelmed at the moment as they rely heavily on imports and have already botched a few test results creating mistrust here.

I found your post searching for a gluten test.   There is a specific way of washing out a dough ball and retaining just the gluten.  I will find it soon.  Curious to see if it works on roasted flour.

Mini Oven 

CountryBoy's picture

Since the USGA and FDA are no longer doing meaningful monitoring of our food chain it is important that individuals do what they can.  Most people know of medical/health  problems related to Cadbury chocoalates but you may not have heard of the following at: 

BPOM confirms food contamination

Erwida Maulia ,  The Jakarta Post ,  Jakarta   |  Sun, 09/28/2008 10:00 AM  |  Headlines

The Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) has confirmed fears that certain Chinese-based foods sold in Indonesia contain toxic ingredient melamine, citing six registered and six illegal products in circulation in the country.

Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said in Jakarta on Saturday that the BPOM had found poisonous ingredient melamine in Oreo stick wafers and M&Ms (each with two registration numbers), Snickers and Guozhen formula milk.

The six items were included on a list of 19 China-based dairy products registered with the BPOM. Siti said the BPOM had faced difficulties in locating some of the products on the list, which includes Meiji Indoeskrim's Gold Monas ice cream, Dove Choc candies, Merry X-Mas candies and Nestle Milkmaid milk jam.

BPOM head Husniah Rubiana Thamrin Akib said the listed products would only contain melamine if they had been produced in China, as indicated by the bar code, which begins "ML" for foreign made products.

Local-based products, which are indicated by "MD" on the bar code, are safe because they are made using local milk or milk imported from Australia or New Zealand.

Foods containing Chinese dairy products were banned in many countries, including Indonesia, after four infants died and 53,000 fell ill after consuming milk contaminated by melamine.

Melamine, a toxic chemical normally used in fertilizers and plastics, can cause kidney failure and kidney stones if ingested.

Some Chinese milk producers allegedly used the toxic ingredient to boost protein content of watered-down milk.

The BPOM has so far found melamine in six illegally imported China-based dairy products during raids on retailers throughout the country. Among the illegal products is White Rabbit creamy candies.

"All products from China have a melamine concentration of between 8.51 milligram per kilogram (parts per million) and 945.86 mg per kg (ppm)," Siti said, adding that the toxic products would soon be destroyed.

The Health Ministry also told the public not to consume Chinese dairy products containing melamine announced in a warning by Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

The products are not registered in Indonesia but may have entered the country illegally and may be in circulation in areas including Batam and border towns in Kalimantan.

The AVA's list of toxic products includes Yili Bean Club red bean ice bar, Nestle Dairy Farm UHT milk and Dutch Lady milk.

Siti warned importers, distributors and retailers to stop selling the items, adding that those failing to comply with the ban could face up to five years' imprisonment and Rp 2 billion (US$214,000) in fines.

The BPOM has also sealed off four mini markets in Jakarta for selling illegal foods and cosmetic products imported from China, Japan and South Korea.

Husniah named the mini markets as Rejeki in Harmoni, Central Jakarta; Papaya on Jl. Melawai, Mugung Hwa in Senayan and Cosmos in Kebayoran Baru, all in South Jakarta.

Ribka Tjiptaning, chairwoman of the House of Representatives Commission IX overseeing health and manpower issues, said the BPOM should have learned from previous cases.

"The BPOM should be more active in its active monitoring of food products. It should not stop monitoring when the scandal recedes," she said.

Public findings of any melamine-containing products sold on the market should be reported to the BPOM by phone (021) 4263333 or (021) 32199000, by SMS to 081511997772, or by email to or

Desy Nurhayati contributed to the report

List of dairy-based products (produced in China) ontaining melamine found in RI:

Product Names
Melamine Concentration (mg/kg) Status in RI
1. Guozhen Pine Pollen Calcium Milk
Yantai New Era Health Industry Co., Ltd.
2. Oreo Wafer Sticks
PT Nabisco Food (Suzhou) Co. Ltd.
3. Oreo Wafer Sticks
PT Nabisco Food (Suzhou) Co. Ltd.
4. M&M’s Minis Milk Chocolate
Mars Food Co. Ltd.
5. M&M’s Minis Milk Chocolate
Mars Food Co. Ltd.
252.8 Registered
6. M&M’s Peanuts Chocolate Candies
PT Effem Foods Co. Ltd.
116.4 Registered
7. M&M’s Peanuts Chocolate Candies
PT Effem Foods Co. Ltd.
262.82 Registered
8. M&M’s Milk Chocolate
PT Effem Foods Co. Ltd.
9. M&M’s Milk Chocolate
Mars Food Co. Ltd.
Mars Food Co. Ltd.
11.White Rabbit creamy candies (blue package)
Shanghai Guan Sheng Yuan
12.White Rabbit creamy candies (red package)
Shanghai Guan Sheng Yuan
13.Soybean Drink with Milk (green package)
Wuzhou Bingquan Industrial Shareholding Co., Ltd.
93.25 Illegal
14.Soybean Drink with Milk (yellow package)
Wuzhou Bingquan Industrial Shareholding Co., Ltd.
15.Soyspring Instant Milk Cereal
Wuzhou Bingquan Industrial Shareholding Co., Ltd.
23.4 Illegal
16.Soyspring Instant Peanut Milk
Wuzhou Bingquan Industrial Shareholding Co., Ltd.
<0.6 Illegal