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a silent salute: The audience "claps" at Joke Night during Deaf Awareness week. Click Arts&Life for a link to story. / Photo by Leah Lopshire

Today's word on journalism

December 15, 2008

As part of my own personal "war on Christmas" (which a Utah state senator has offered legislation to outlaw), the WORD celebrates the season by going on hiatus until January. May all out days be merry and bright, and here’s to a safe, healthy and saner New Year. HoHoHo!

Empty Minds: "Of all the people expressing their mental vacuity, none has a better excuse for an empty head than the newspaperman: If he pauses to restock his brain, he invites onrushing deadlines to trample him flat. Broadcasting the contents of empty minds is what most of us do most of the time, and nobody more relentlessly than I."

--Russell Baker, Pulitzer-winning columnist

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Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Melamine is one more black mark on China in the global marketplace

By Ronald Wallace

November 17, 2008 | Unless an issue is directly affecting us or our country sometimes we have a tendency to not worry or care about it. For one thing other countries' issues usually don't get put on the news, and some people think it's their problem and they need to deal with it. Since it is important that we know what is going on in the world I wanted to talk about one important problem that is affecting children in China right now. This is the issue of melamine.

I didn't know anything about this problem until Halloween. My wife had received an e-mail that warned her about letting your kids open certain types of candy that usually had gold wrappers on it that typically come from dollar stores. The reason why is because they come from China and are known to have this melamine product in it, so the e-mail warning was for our safety. Fortunately we don't have any kids who go around and get candy so I didn't take much warning from the e-mail. However, a few days later I was curious and wanted to see what this melamine issue was about.

Time magazine reports that China has started putting melamine into their milk believing it would act as a protein. Melamine is a compound composed of nitrogen, carbon, and hydrogen that was created originally in the 1830s by a German scientist. It had been used for other purposes, such as a material used to make plastics and laminates. In 2007, however material containing this melamine was labeled as wheat gluten or rice protein and shipped from China to other countries as pet food. Pets, started to get sick so the Canadian pet food company and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recalled the pet food from the market. By the time the pet food had been recalled many thousands of pets had already died.

The thing that is unfortunate is China didn't stop there. After they received reports of what this melamine compound did to animals they decided to sell it in their milk products. The National Post reported on Sept. 22 that more than 54,000 children have been affected by this milk scandal. On Sept. 28 when an American baby became a victim, another report said the number was around 60,000, but you can't get an exact amount because the Chinese government is very confidential and will never allow anybody to report accurate statistics.

There are quite a few effects that come from melamine, especially in children. The major immediate symptoms are kidney stones and renal failure. The more serious complications are caused when the chemicals crystallize and then block the tiny tubes in the kidneys. Also, a new issue was presented in a study that was done with melamine and formaldehyde that shows if taken for up to a period of three years, depending upon how much milk you've ingested, it will cause kidney disease and cancer in most of the people who are fed the poison milk.

Some critics are very frustrated because they say China knew about the link between sick babies and melamine-laced formula well before the Summer Olympics in Beijing but did nothing to investigate it until external pressure left them no choice. Now because many countries don't want to buy their milk products they are considering doing something about it. The National Post reported that Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan have all decided to ban or recall their milk products until a change is made and China removes melamine from their baby formula and milk products. Also, Dutch dairy group Friesland Foods removed three types of milk products from their shelves in Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau as a precaution because they had been receiving them from China.

When doing research on this topic I discovered the Food and Drug Administration has sent out a warning to avoid certain products because of possible melamine contamination. Some of these products are Koala's March Crème filled cookies, fresh and crispy Jacobina biscuits, YILI brand pure milk drink, Blue Cat flavored drinks, White Rabbit candies, Mr. Brown coffee and tea products, and Infant formula manufactured in China. These were just a few that were listed on the FDA's list.

At the current moment the National Post has reported four deaths have occurred because of this problem. This may not seem like a large number but the long term effect is what is still in question. It is said that unless something is done an entire generation will suffer cancer to some extent and other serious medical challenges.

China has seen this is affecting their children as well as the children of other countries. Before this they knew it was killing people's pets and they didn't stop it. The question now is: Are they going to stop using it or worry about saving a little bit of money in their milk products and baby formula?

Unfortunately, it appears that China doesn't seem to have the same regulations that most countries do when it comes to a product damaging people's health. Usually if the U.S. is caught with a product hurting their people, the FDA steps in and stops its production. However, it seems that China is going to be forced to stop because people aren't buying their milk products anymore.

As the National Post says, "This has again shaken trust in China's products after last year's scare over toxic and shoddy goods from toothpaste and drugs to pet food and toys." Let's hope they will react fast and remove melamine from their milk to prove they are concerned about the children and their future health. Then we can all have confidence in buying milk products from China again knowing our children will be safe.


Copyright 1997-2008 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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