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EU Bans Imports of Soy from China in New Melamine Scare

DW staff (cat)December 4, 2008

European Union regulators have banned imports of soy-based foodstuffs for infants and young children from China after the toxin melamine was discovered in soybean meal, officials in Brussels said Wednesday.

Chinese woman inspecting a package of milk
Imports of milk products are already tested upon reaching European portsImage: AP

The executive branch of the EU, the European Commission, said in a statement Wednesday that they "will take measures to ban the import from China of food for infants and young children containing soya and soya products, after high levels of melamine were recently found in Chinese soybean meal."

The measures include a complete ban on children's food containing soya, and compulsory testing on all other soy-related foods and on shipments of baking powder (ammonium bicarbonate), the statement said.

Only foods with less than 2.5 milligrams of melamine per kilogram of foodstuff will be allowed into the EU. The ban is expected to be implemented by the end of this week.

Some compulsory testing already in place

The chemical melamine is used in pesticides and plastics. Several months ago, it was the focus of a scandal over milk products that left at least six children dead and saw close to 300,000 fall ill in China.

After news of the scandal broke in September, the commission banned the import of all children's foods containing any trace of milk from China, and imposed compulsory testing on all foods, such as chocolate, which contain milk.

"Competent authorities in the (EU) member states will have to test all other feed and food containing soya and soya products originating from China before allowing imports," the European Commission said in a statement.

The EU imported an estimated 68,000 tons of soy products from China in 2007, with a value of some 34 million euros ($43 million).