“We found out that some meat here contains melamine and this is of serious concern,” Professor Isam T Kadim, head of the department of animal and veterinary sciences, SQU, who led the research, told Muscat Daily. “Melamine contamination can take place through the use of veterinary drugs such as antibiotics, hormones, growth promoting agents and commercialised feed.”
The approved melamine content in food from use of such industrial products is estimated at less than 0.015mg/kg. According to Kadim, this is a small quantity and does not pose a public health concern. “However, we found out that chicken product samples from eight out of 16 poultry companies contain melamine in the range of 25.6-73mg/kg.”
The study tested 51 randomly collected meat and meat product samples from 35 local, regional and international companies. The samples represented cattle, sheep and poultry, besides burgers, sausages, mortadella, salami and mincemeat from the processed meat category.
It also showed that the concentration of melamine in processed poultry such as sausages, burger and mincemeat ranged between zero and 35.2 mg/kg. “However, melamine content in cattle and sheep meat samples was below the maximum residue limit,” he said. “The results indicated that some of the poultry companies may have used feed contaminated with melamine.”
These values were much higher than the maximum residue limit, consumption of which can cause kidney stones. Fifty per cent of poultry products tested were contaminated with more than the maximum permitted limit of melamine.
“The high levels of melamine must be taken seriously as poultry consumption among Omanis has increased by 75-80 per cent in recent years,” Kadim added.
He cited the example of China, where melamine was added to diluted milk for manufacturing powdered infant formula some years back. The adulterated formula resulted in 50,000 cases of kidney stones, mostly among children under three years of age.
Oman needs to strengthen sampling and develop techniques to monitor the potential hazards of contaminated food. “Screening of melamine residues in meat and meat products is very important, especially in Oman, where meat consumption is high,” Kadim said.
Editor's note: The research team at Sultan Qaboos University responsible for the tests declined to give some details of the tests including the brands affected, country of origin of the affected meat products etc when contacted by Muscat Daily for this story.