Swiss researchers have developed a faster technique to detect the presence of melamine in liquids, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (EPFZ) announced.
The chemical has been at the centre of a food safety scandal in China since September last year. Detecting it in liquid previously took anything from between 20 and 60 minutes, but the Swiss team's new method has cut the time to 30 seconds.
The scientists used a technique known as mass spectrometry to cut testing time, said Renato Zenobi, professor of analytical chemistry at the Organic Chemistry Laboratory at EPFZ. Mass spectrometry is a technique used to measure the masses of atoms and molecules in a material or liquid.
Farmers and milk wholesalers in China caused controversy last year after it emerged some had been tried for mixing melamine into their milk products to make them appear richer in protein content. The chemical is normally used to manufacture glue, resin and plastics.
Since the scandal erupted in September 2008, almost 300 000 children have been taken ill and six have died, according to Chinese authorities. The discovery shocked consumers both in China and abroad, with many countries banning Chinese products containing milk. – (Sapa, January 2009)
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