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Melamine in the Food Chain, Trace Amounts in Imported Foods from Mainland China


Industrial chemical has been recently found in dairy products exported to countries around the globe.

The deaths of 4 children and illness of 53,000 others in China due to melamine contaminated foods has brought worldwide attention to food safety concerns. The extent of food-borne contamination by Chinese exporters has been wide ranging. Dry pet foods contaminated with melamine tainted wheat gluten first appeared in late 2006; in early 2008 the Chinese government uncovered a scandal involving dry powdered milk and infant formula inside their borders.

Recently, melamine has found its way into a major international food manufacturer’s chocolates that were produced near Beijing and exported to Singapore. It appears the melamine had been added to proteins to artificially inflate the total protein content which is measured using Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen (TKN).

Since melamine has six Nitrogen atoms in its structure, a small amount can have a large effect on TKN. In an effort to apply technology to further elucidate possible sources of melamine in the food supply, the industrial hygiene laboratory at EMSL Analytical is now offering a trace melamine assay.

The technology utilizes ion trap mass spectrometric identification of potentially tainted imported foodstuffs prepared having Chinese wheat gluten or dairy products as one of their main ingredients. The current limit of detection is 10ng/ml (ppb).

EMSL Analytical is a leading provider advanced laboratory testing services and has been busy answering a barrage of phone calls from concerned individuals and parents about melamine. “Just today new articles were published addressing concerns of melamine in imported food products,” stated Paul Cochrane, Director of Marketing for EMSL Analytical. “This important testing service provided by EMSL can quickly answer any concerns about melamine contamination,” Cochrane continued.

EMSL’s Industrial Hygiene Testing Division can be reached at the corporate laboratory at 800-220-3675. More information can be found at or by emailing

About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is a nationally recognized and locally focused provider of environmental, food, and materials testing services and products to professionals and the general public. The company has an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations as well as state and federal regulating bodies.


 Tainted Food
 Environmental Laboratory
 Food Safety

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