Leather Protein, Melamine: China's Milk Does a Body Bad

Megan is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.
Chinese officials says melamine in milk will not be tolerated. (sarcozona/Creative Commons)

Chinese dairy producers, be warned: Inspectors are on alert for processed milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine and a toxic substance extracted from leather scraps, reports the Associated Press.

China's Ministry of Agriculture posted a notice to the website of the State Council that it plans to carry out 6,450 random milk checks this year to catch milk producers who add toxic substances to their milk to raise its protein content.

Hydrolyzed leather protein (HLP)—a substance derived from leather scraps—is a cunning choice for an additive. It actually does contain protein and does come from a cow; so it's hard to detect. The blend-in factor made HLP an appealing alternative additive when milk producers got caught puffing up their milk with melamine in 2008. The Chinese government is hoping to quell public fears with renewed efforts to regulate milk.

The protein extracted from cow leather is not known to be dangerous to human health, but the curing chemicals are, says Peter Leedham, a China-based food testing executive. 

"Those who ingest it are at risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease whose chief symptom is brittle bones. Long-term exposure to the chemicals can lead to cancer and death among children," reports People's Daily Online.

As of Friday, no illnesses had been reported, according to Reuters.

Because melamine in milk is still a concern in China, "all the tests will check for melamine and 30 percent will look for hydrolyzed leather protein," reports the Associated Press.

Read the full article here.

Photo: sarcozona/Creative Commons via Flickr

Comments ()