Melamine was found in powdered dried whole eggs imported from China, Mitsui & Co. announced Thursday, marking the first time the toxic chemical has been found in Chinese egg products in Japan.
The Tokyo-based trading company said that it found 2.8 to 4.6 parts per million of melamine in the product. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry instructed importers of Chinese eggs to conduct thorough voluntary tests because the amount of melamine detected is above 2.5 ppm, the threshold for a voluntary recall.
No health problems have been reported, the ministry said.
According to Mitsui & Co., the powdered dried whole eggs were produced by Dalian Hanovo Foods Co. in Dalian, Liaoning Province. The trading company imported about 20 tons of the product on Sept. 1 and later sold the entire amount to Q.P. Egg Corp, a subsidiary of the major food company Q.P. Corp.
About 400 kilograms of the product were then sold to a bakery, and has likely already been used to make sweet buns.
Mitsui & Co. said it was informed by the Chinese company on Oct. 6 that melamine had been detected in feed for its chickens. The trading company then found melamine in all the three samples from eggs powder it imported from the company.
Q.P. Egg tested four types of sweet bun products at the bakery, but the toxic substance was not detected in them.
Dalian Hanovo Foods is one of the largest makers of egg products in China and has a farm with about 3 million chickens and production facilities in the city.
"We're aware of melamine problems, but didn't think about [possible contamination in] feed for chickens," a Mitsui & Co. representative said. "Our risk judgment was insufficient."
Dried whole eggs, which are made from powdered dried yolks and egg whites, are used in making bread and noodles. They also are used to flavor and color confectionary. The product can be stored longer than raw eggs. Almost all powdered egg distributed in the Japanese market is imported. In fiscal 2007, 3,368 tons were imported to Japan--2,303 tons from the United States, the largest supplier, and 265 tons from China, the third-largest.
Thursday's announcement of the detection of the toxic substance in the powdered eggs stunned the importer, foodmakers and consumers, only two days after extremely high contaminations of pesticide were found in a packet of Chinese frozen green beans.
Mitsui & Co. and Q.P. Egg said they "trusted" the maker, while one consumer was shocked at spreading of melamine contamination in foods, saying, "Even eggs, which we eat everyday [have been contaminated]."
"We believed that safety has been assured, but this assumption was lenient," Kenji Kawasaki, chief of Mitsui & Co.'s food and retail risk management section, said at a press conference held in Tokyo on Thursday evening. "We're sorry."