Guidelines developed by ISO and the International Dairy Federation (IDF) to help prevent a recurrence of the crisis caused by milk adulterated with melamine that affected thousands of children have been endorsed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the United Nations body responsible for food safety that protects the health of consumers and helps to ensure fair trade practices in the food trade.

In 2008, a number of children died and many became seriously ill after drinking milk contaminated by melamine. The substance, which is used in the manufacturing of fire-retardant plastics, had been added to milk sold by some companies in order to make it appear as having higher protein content. In humans, ingestion of melamine can cause kidney stones and renal failure. This is particularly dangerous for babies and small children for whom it can prove fatal.

At its 32nd session, 7-11 March, the Codex Committee on Methods of Analysis and Sampling (CCMAS) endorsed the joint IDF/ISO guidelines for milk, milk products and infant formula. The endorsement of these guidelines means that an internationally harmonized procedure has now been approved that will allow authorities to check the level of melamine in powdered infant formula against the recently adopted Codex maximum level of 1 mg melamine per kg of product.

CCMAS is recommending this method for final adoption by the Codex Alimentarius Commission in July 2011. Codex has already adopted more than 60 joint IDF/ISO standards for methods of analysis which facilitate international trade in dairy products and protect the consumer.

‘’These current recommended guidelines provide a robust means for regulatory authorities, manufacturers and producers to ensure the integrity and safety of tested milk and derivative products and help prevent further incidents” says Professor Árpád Ambrus, Chair of the CCMAS.

‘’The publication of these guidelines was achieved in a very short time span in response to the event of milk adulteration with melamine. The availability of the method will help reinforce consumer confidence in the milk industry’s ability to guarantee safe and nutritious products. It also clearly demonstrates the strength of IDF and ISO’s collaboration, especially concerning matters regarding food safety/public health and protection’’ says Richard Doyle, President of the IDF.

ISO/TS 15495 | IDF/RM 230:2010 will be useful for dairy producers and suppliers, milk product and infant formulae manufacturers, regulatory and testing authorities, equipment suppliers, and the food industry in general.

The document was prepared by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 34, Food products, subcommittee SC 5, Milk and milk products, in collaboration with IDF – a non-profit organization representing the dairy sector worldwide. IDF and ISO have a long history of working together to develop and jointly publish standards methods of analysis and sampling for milk and derivative products.

ISO/TS 15495 | IDF/RM 230:2010, Milk, milk products and infant formulae -- Guidelines for the quantitative determination of melamine and cyanuric acid by LC-MS/MS, is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details). It may also be obtained directly from the ISO Central Secretariat, price 118 Swiss francs, through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing, Communication & Information department (see right-hand column).