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Are vegies also contaminated?

Fears have been voiced that imported Chinese vegetables sold in Australia could also be contaminated with melamine.

Australian food authorities are investigating reports of melamine contamination of vegetables and will complete a safety assessment.

Chinese products imported into Australia include:

  • fresh garlic and peas,
  • frozen mixed vegetables,
  • canned mushrooms, and
  • tomato paste.

International media reports have raised concerns some fruit and vegetables could also be contaminated with melamine from fertilisers or pesticides.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s Lydia Buchtmann said Australian investigators were looking into the reports.

“We are taking this seriously,” she said.

“We’re investigating that, talking to overseas agencies and doing a risk assessment.”

Buchtmann said international media reports had raised concerns about Chinese mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce and watercress.

“At this stage, we can find no evidence that they’re unsafe, but it’s certainly something we’re looking into,” she said.

If the FSANZ safety assessment found a problem, then authorities would move to test products.

Buchtmann said a person would have to eat large quantities of contaminated dairy or vegetable produce over some months to suffer ill effects.

Industry body Ausveg chair, David Anderson, said he was aware of concerns about Chinese vegetables. He called for more rigorous testing of horticultural produce imported into Australia.

“I think there needs to be some additional resources to testing imported products into Australia, to make sure that everybody’s completely okay,” Anderson said.

Australian authorities have withdrawn four products from sale over the melamine scandal:

  • White Rabbit milk-based lollies,
  • Cadbury chocolate eclairs made in China,
  • Lotte Koala Biscuits, and
  • Kirin milk tea.

Melamine was used in China to make milk appear higher in protein.

Products contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine, which is normally used in plastic products, have killed at least four children and sickened 53,000 in mainland China.

Australia imported $85 million of Chinese fruit and vegetables last financial year, most of which was frozen or canned, according to the industry body Horticulture Australia.

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