Issue Date: November 3, 2008
EVERY ARTICLE I'VE READ about the milk products from China that contain intentionally added melamine uses the term "tainted" as if it is equivalent to flavor going bad because of mold growth or a minor unintended impurity (C&EN, Sept. 29, page 18). The addition of melamine to fool food quality control tests of watered-down milk is intentional and criminal adulteration with no regard to health consequences. There is nothing accidental or minor about it.
"Tainted" doesn't begin to describe this unforgivable act. C&EN and all other publications should stop using this descriptor. After the pet-food scare, people who continued the use of melamine were knowingly poisoning human food. The perpetrators should be held criminally liable for recklessly causing serious illness and death in children.
Where melamine or other contaminants are indeed unintentional contaminants at levels that are exceedingly low and not reasonably expected to cause adverse health effects, the term tainted is an overstatement. Given enough analytical power, myriad natural and man-made chemicals can be found in foods. The question for such impurities should be, "What is the scientifically determined level of risk compared to the cost and benefits of their removal?" C&EN should make clear the difference between unintended low-level contamination and the active adulteration of food products with the intent to deceive. Tainted is inappropriate for both extremes.
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