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GK of the day: What is Melamine? Why Indian banned Chinese dairy products?

GK of the day: What is Melamine? Why Indian banned Chinese dairy products?

The Indian government has extended the ban on import of milk and its products, including chocolates, from China till laboratories at ports for testing presence of toxic chemical melamine are upgraded.

Food regulator FSSAI had recommended extending the ban until all labs at ports are modernised to test the chemical. 

The ban was first imposed in September 2008 and extended subsequently from time to time.

What is Melamine?

Melamine is widely used in plastics, adhesives, countertops, dishware, and whiteboards.

Why it is used in milk products?

In China, where adulteration has occurred, water has been added to raw milk to increase its volume. As a result of this dilution the milk has a lower protein concentration.

Companies using the milk for further production (e.g. of powdered infant formula) normally check the protein level through a test measuring nitrogen content.

The addition of melamine increases the nitrogen content of the milk and therefore its apparent protein content. 

Addition of melamine into food is not approved by the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius (food standard commission), or by any national authorities. 

Health effects on Humans

While there are no direct human studies on the effect of melamine data from animal studies can be used to predict adverse health effects.

Melamine alone causes bladder stones in animal tests. When combined with cyanuric acid, which may also be present in melamine powder, melamine can form crystals that can give rise to kidney stones.

Melamine has also been shown to have carcinogenic effects in animals in certain circumstances, but there is insufficient evidence to make a judgment on carcinogenic risk in humans. 

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