The Camcontrol Department of the Ministry of Commerce began checking shops Friday for varieties of Malaysian biscuits known to be contaminated with the compound melamine, Camcontrol Deputy Director-General Klauk Choun said Monday.
The World Health Organization found in October that 18 varieties of biscuits sold under the brand names Kong Guan and Khian Guan are tainted with levels of melamine that surpass international health standards, and Malaysian authorities ordered a recall of the products.
Twenty-nine other Kong Guan and Khian Guan biscuit varieties are not affected and remain on sale in Cambodia and elsewhere.
So far, Cambodian officials have found only 17 packages of the recalled biscuits for sale on Phnom Penh shelves, and none in the provinces, Klauk Choun said. There have been no reports of illness from melamine in Cambodia, and no reports of illness from the biscuits anywhere.
Recent concerns over melamine began in September, when thousands of infants fell ill after consuming Chinese baby formula that had been adulterated with melamine to deceive quality checks. Four children have died. Since then, melamine has also been found in low levels in some Chinese eggs and candy bars.
Ty Prasoeur, public relations officer for Lucky Market on Sihanouk Boulevard, said Camcontrol officials had come to the supermarket to check for recalled products 10 times since the melamine scare began.
“We have products from Malaysia but not the products on their list,” he said.
Svay Sovannratana, general manager of Pencil Supercenter by the riverside, said Camcontrol had checked his supermarket twice: in September for milk with melamine, and Thursday for the biscuits.
“Milk sales have declined 20 to 30 percent since early September,” he said. “Customers are always asking about the origin of the milk products before buying them,” he added.
Reached by phone, Peter Belembarek, a food-safety expert at the World Health Organization in Geneva, said the melamine in the Malaysian biscuits originated in tainted baking powder. Since very little baking powder is used to make biscuits, he said, the contamination level was slight.
“You would have to eat a whole bunch of biscuits before you got sick,” Belembarek said. “Nonetheless, it is unacceptable for melamine to appear at this level in food, so they had to be recalled,” he said.
Belembarek added that the WHO is still investigating the risks of low-level melamine contamination.
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