Melamine is a chemical that is found most often in plastic materials. However, in recent times the nitrogen rich chemical is being used in food products, especially milk as the presence of nitrogen can enhance protein value. Good protein content is an indicator of quality of the foodstuffs but since melamine contamination is a health hazard so the food industry needs to carry out melamine testing. Melamine can cause kidney damage, kidney stones and kidney failure so food products need to be tested for melamine contamination especially dairy products.
Melamine testing of specific foods
Foods where melamine has also been detected are wheat gluten, corn gluten, corn meal, soy protein, rice bran, and rice protein concentrate. Recognised food testing laboratories can provide melamine testing for most raw materials and finished products. Food testing must also be carried out for other contaminants like uric and cyanuric acid as animal studies suggest a combination of these with melamine can be more toxic than alone.
Melamine testing in milk
Companies that use raw milk for further production normally check the protein level through a test measuring nitrogen content. Since melamine contamination in milk has been detected there is an increase in the demand for melamine testing of milk products. Recognised food testing laboratories have the ability and the equipment to test for the presence of melamine and in the quantity present in suspected food samples. It is also important for all companies in the supply chain to undertake melamine testing to determine if they are using raw materials or ingredients that could contain melamine, and which could reach the finished products.
Regulatory limits and melamine testing
Melamine adulteration by unscrupulous individuals was first detected first in 2008 when high levels of melamine was detected in food products and animals feed from around the world, which was traced back to China. Based on these reports the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had issued an advisory about the incidence of melamine adulteration, the harmful effects of melamine along with toxicological references and provided a list of methods for melamine testing of food products. FSSAI also directed the State food authorities to carry out extensive melamine contamination testing of food materials and to enforce withdrawal of dairy products from the market if they contain more than 2.5 ppm of melamine. The FSSAI also prescribed the regulatory limits for melamine in powdered infant formula, liquid infant formula as well as other foods. All food manufacturing companies are required to carry out melamine testing to ensure compliance to the standards prescribed by FSSAI.
Melamine testing methods
Melamine testing in approved testing labs is an important step for food companies to undertake to ensure foods are safe and that melamine is within prescribed regulatory limits. Approved food testing labs use recommended analytical methods for melamine testing using Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS). The LCMSMS method of testing melamine is highly sensitive and used for detection of melamine in a variety of food products.