Draft legislation on melamine and foodstuffs regulation is now available for public comment, the health ministry said.
Departmental spokesman Fidel Hadebe said the regulations relating to maximum levels of melamine in foodstuffs was published in the Government Gazette on January 28 by Health Minister Barbara Hogan. This was in terms of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972 (Act 54 of 1972).
"The regulations have been published as a draft and interested parties are invited to submit substantiated comments or representations on the contents to the director-general of health," Hadebe said in a statement .
Linked to food safety incident
Comments to the department should be made by no later than April 28. The department said the regulations were published in response to a food safety incident in China last year.
Melamine, mixed with raw milk to reportedly fool quality tests for protein, was blamed for the deaths of at least six children and sickening nearly 300 000 others in China. South Africa was not directly affected by the incident.
"Through the monitoring and control measures applied by health authorities locally during that time, it was discovered in November 2008 that some of the locally manufactured foodstuffs intended for infants and young children contained melamine slightly above the internationally accepted cut-off levels," it said.
The contamination, which did not pose a "significant threat" to South Africa, was caused by maize gluten from China used in animal feed manufacturing. Items affected were then removed from the shelves.
Set legal limits for melamine,/b>
Once the regulations are finalised, this would ensure that manufacturers and importers have clarity on the legal limits for the presence of melamine in their foodstuffs.
"It will also further strengthen the monitor and control measures applied by the Environmental Health Practitioners employed by the provinces for imported foodstuffs, and by the metro and district municipalities for locally manufactured foodstuffs."
According to the draft regulation, any foodstuff containing melamine at a level above 1mg/kg for foodstuffs intended for children under 36-months-old and foodstuffs for special dietary uses, and 2.5mg/kg for all other foodstuffs, would be seen as contaminated and impure.
If melamine levels above this proposed limit were manufactured, sold or imported in South Africa, it would be considered a criminal offence.
"The mentioned levels are also in line with those set by a number of countries in their legislation, including Australia, Canada and the European Union," said the ministry.
More information and copies of the draft regulations could be obtained from the Directorate: Food Control. The regulations were also available on www.doh.gov.za/department/dir_foodcontr-f.html. - (Sapa)
Melamine found in SA baby formula
Melamine scandal: are we at risk?