Melamine, detected in eggs, spurs recall in China
Wal-Mart vigilant after milk scandal
The discovery of melamine in eggs raises more questions about how far the chemical at the center of China's tainted milk scandal has penetrated the nation's food chain.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, said it has removed the Select brand of eggs produced by China's Dalian Hanwei Enterprise Group from its shelves in China. A government official in Dalian, the northeastern port city where Hanwei is located, said the company has begun a nationwide recall of the suspect eggs.
Mu Mingming, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said the company is working closely with suppliers and the government. "We just want to make sure the products on our shelves are safe," Mu said by telephone from Shenzhen.
Hong Kong testers found melamine in the eggs at nearly two times the territory's legal limit for the chemical in food. The egg contamination has prompted Hong Kong officials to expand testing to Chinese meat imports.
Wal-Mart and Chinese officials said they did not have a figure for how many eggs had been recalled and it was not immediately clear which countries import eggs from China. So far, no illnesses have been reported.
It remains unclear how humans would be affected by eating melamine-tainted eggs. In the milk scandal, infant formula heavily contaminated with the chemical caused kidney stones and other kidney ailments in 54,000 children and was blamed in the deaths of four babies. More than 3,600 children remain sick, health officials say.
Hanwei's director, Han Wei, apologized for the problem.
"There are no consumers asking about protein levels in our eggs and so there is no need for us to add melamine to our eggs in the process of selling our products," Han told the Hong Kong television station TVB yesterday. "We truly regret this. We too have an undeniable responsibility."
Han did not explain how the chemical made its way into the company's eggs. But the Chinese Agriculture Ministry's animal husbandry department head, Wang Zhicai, said it was probably added to chicken feed, the Beijing News reported.
The newspaper said the ministry has been inspecting feed for the chemical since last year, after a Chinese-made pet food ingredient laced with melamine was linked to the deaths of dozens of dogs and cats in the United States and touched off a massive recall of pet food.
Melamine is used in making plastics and fertilizer, and is banned from animal feed. Melamine boosts nitrogen levels, making products seem higher in protein when tested.