China fish imports raise melamine fears

Dec. 24, 2008 at 9:54 AM
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SHANGHAI, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Scientists and consumer groups say fish from China may be contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine.

China exports billions of dollars worth of shrimp, catfish, tilapia, salmon and other fish to the United States and other countries, with U.S. importers buying about $2 billion in Chinese seafood products last year, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Melamine, which is used illegally to artificially boost protein readings, poses more serious health problems with fish than with cows and pigs because unlike other animals, fish that have been given melamine-laced feed retain residues of the nitrogen-rich chemical in their edible flesh.

Infant formula tainted with the chemical has been linked to illness in 294,000 small children and six deaths in China. Studies of melamine-fed catfish, trout, tilapia and salmon by U.S. scientists have found that fish tissues had melamine concentrations of up to 200 parts per million -- 80 times the maximum "tolerable" amount set for safe consumption, the newspaper said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it currently doesn't require seafood products to be screened for melamine, the Times said.

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