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Exponent Scientist Presents at WHO Meeting on Toxicology of Melamine


December 10, 2008

Steve Crossley, Senior Managing Scientist in the Harrogate UK office and Head of Food Safety and Nutrition in Europe, was one of more than 20 internationally recognized scientists who attended the World Health Organization (WHO) International Expert Consultation on the toxicology of melamine. The Expert Consultation was held in Ottawa, Canada on December 1-4, 2008 and was co-sponsored by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and Health Canada. Mr. Crossley and Dr. Barbara Petersen, Principal Scientist, were asked to write a background paper on melamine dietary exposure. Mr. Crossley presented their findings at the meeting.

According to the WHO, more than 51,900 infants and young children in China were hospitalized for urinary problems, possible renal tube blockages and possible kidney stones related to the consumption of melamine contaminated infant formula and related dairy products. Six deaths among infants have been confirmed in mainland China. Non-fatal cases have also been found in Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR and Taiwan, China. Kidney stones in infants are very rare. At the meeting, the attendees established a tolerable daily intake (TDI) for melamine, the chemical found recently in contaminated milk products. The TDI is lower than previous TDIs suggested for melamine by some national food safety authorities.

Exponent’s assessment was used to characterize the level of risk posed by both the high levels of melamine in adulterated food and the trace levels of melamine which occur in many foods at ‘background levels’. While the food adulterated with high levels of melamine was considered unsafe, estimates of dietary exposure arising from the low background levels in food were well within the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for melamine established by the meeting in Ottawa this past week.Information on the outcome of the meeting can be found here.