Reuters reports that the use of melamine is “rampant among farmers and feed-ingredient manufacturers”. The words of Sun Erwu,a feedmill owner in Hebei province, which is at the centre of the milk powder scandal, are enough to send tingles down our spine, and raise questions over what is happening to the entire food chain in China:
“It is like a chain… If cows are fed with poor feed and produce lower-protein milk, dairy plants will not accept the milk, so many add melamine,” Sun told Reuters on the sidelines of a grains conference.
“Farmers have no idea what melamine is. They only know if they add it, their milk will not be refused.”
Sun said he was not surprised when his meal was found to contain melamine as it was so widely used in Hebei and neighboring Shandong province. He said he was the victim but was fined 30,000 yuan ($4,400) nevertheless.
“I have long wanted to test my products, but to test for melamine is expensive and it takes a long time,” he said, adding that testing one sample would cost more than 1,000 yuan ($145) — and then the laboratory cannot pinpoint the contamination to one ingredient in the meal.
“Soymeal can be contaminated, so can corn gluten meal and cottonseed meal — suppliers add melamine into all these supplements,” said Sun.
Adding melamine to lower-protein cottonseed meal could mean a profit of 1,000 yuan more per tonne as melamine can make the protein level look as high as that of rich soymeal, he said.
The cheating was done by milk dealers and milk-collecting stations, which add melamine to milk to increase protein level to the 3 percent requested by dairy plants, said Sun, who sells his feed to dairy cow farmers.
Still, many farmers, which have small numbers of dairy cows, were victims as they were unaware that melamine was added by dealers at collecting stations, he said.
What we’d like to know now is: Is eating beef still safe? How does the adding of melamine to feed that is given to cows affect the beef that ends up on our tables? Any experts out there among the enlightened readership of this blog?