The recent 2008 Olympics were meant to illustrate how far
The tentacles from the
In addition to the enormous human cost – four young lives lost and thousands more sickened – this latest Chinese food safety scare (they’ve already had problems with bad infant formula before, and then there was the melamine-laced pet food last year) is sure to change how milk is produced in China in the future.
It also, naturally, begs the question of how vulnerable the
Last week, we posted a summary on the NMPF website that lists some basic facts about how the melamine got into the Chinese milk in the first place. The bottom line is it was greed, abetted by willful indifference to the consequences of that venality. Farmers and milk distributors watered down their milk in order to be paid more, the equivalent of a butcher’s thumb on the scale.
Since more water means less protein – and since protein levels are used as a barometer of the value of the milk – they added melamine, an industrial compound rich in nitrogen, to mask the reduction in protein. Milk tests for protein actually measure nitrogen, but instead of the nitrogen associated with real dairy protein, what they were actually measuring was melamine. How long this went on with no oversight, or corrupted oversight, is anyone’s guess. We may never know.
Here in the
1. It is illegal to adulterate milk and there are multiple controls that are in place to detect adulteration.
2. Farms are inspected regularly by state regulatory officials who are trained to look for illegal activities.
3. Farms are visited by cooperative field staff often to work with them on milk quality and animal health, so the cooperative would see illegal activities if they were occurring.
4. Water addition to increase volume, with the offsetting addition of a compound like melamine to “fool” tests for protein levels, would be detected in the U.S. (as a reminder, the milk collecting agents in China apparently added melamine to milk to mask reductions in protein levels as the result of watering).
5. The daily volume of milk from a farm is generally consistent, so a sudden increase in volume would be detected and seen as an anomaly unless a significant number of cows were added. This would be investigated to see why it is occurring.
7. Added water would be detected through other tests that melamine would not “fool.” Tests for freezing point and fat levels would detect added water easily.
8. Manufacturers of finished products like cheese, yogurt and milk proteins would see an inconsistency in yields versus volume of milk if water were added and would investigate why the inconsistency was occurring.
After the pet food scandal in