Chinese candy sold in U.S. has harmful chemical

ByElizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
September 24, 2008, 10:46 PM

— -- New Zealand says one of China's most popular candies — a kind frequently sold at Asian markets in the United States — contains dangerous levels of the industrial chemical melamine.

In an extension of the broadening scandal in China over contaminated milk, testing by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority found 180 parts per million of melamine in White Rabbit Creamy Candies.

The agency's website called the contamination "unacceptably high" and advises consumers to avoid the candy. Melamine levels were high enough to cause health problems, such as kidney stones, in some consumers, according to the agency.

That amount is about 1 milligram of melamine per candy, estimates Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University. "It's not much, but it shouldn't be there at all," she says.

The candies are manufactured in Shanghai by Shanghai Guan Sheng Yuan Food.

News of the levels come as the scope of the milk adulteration scandal in China widened, with four infants dead from contaminated baby formula and at least another 53,000 sickened.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is sampling and testing White Rabbit Creamy Candies and other Chinese "milk-derived ingredients and finished food products containing milk," such as candies, desserts and beverages, says spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek. No contaminated products have been found on U.S. store shelves, she says.

The candy, a chewy, milky taffy, comes in small cylinders about half the size of a AA battery, wrapped in a white waxed paper. The ingredients are corn starch syrup, cane sugar, butter and milk.

Candy from China makes up just 0.7% of the candy sold in the United States, says Susan Snyder Smith of the National Confectioners Association in Vienna, Va. No figures are available for how much White Rabbit Creamy Candy is sold here.

On Monday, 99 Ranch, a large Asian supermarket chain with 26 stores on the West Coast, removed White Rabbit candies from its shelves, says spokeswoman Jennifer Tsao. Other Asian markets across the United States have also pulled the candies.

Consumers exposed to tiny amounts of melamine shouldn't worry, says Angelika Tritscher of the World Health Organization. "Melamine at low doses is actually not considered to be very toxic."

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