KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA banned the import of the baking agent ammonium bicarbonate from China on Thursday, saying it contained high levels of melamine discovered in locally produced biscuits.
The Health Ministry ordered the manufacturers of the biscuits - Khong Guan Holdings Malaysia Bhd and Khian Guan Biscult Manufacturing Co Sdn Bhd - to withdraw the tainted brands from the market immediately, said Noraini Mohamad Othman, the ministry's food safety director.
She said Malaysia is the first country to ban ammonium bicarbonate.
'We are concerned. That means it's not only milk and milk products (that are tainted). The issue is much wider,' Ms Noraini said.
She said the ministry conducted tests on the biscuits after authorities in Vietnam found them contaminated with melamine, a toxic chemical blamed for the deaths of four babies in China.
Ms Noraini said 18 out of 47 products tested positive for melamine.
The source of the contamination was ammonium bicarbonate, used as a raising agent, which was imported from China by both companies for use in biscuit production, she said.
The ministry immediately banned the import of ammonium bicarbonate from China, she said.
Ms Noraini said ammonium bicarbonate shouldn't contain any melamine, although low levels of contamination are acceptable. But the tests on the biscuits revealed unacceptable levels.
Officials will conduct tests on other products to ensure they are safe from consumption, she added.
Malaysia has already banned the import of all milk and milk-based products from China.
Melamine is an industrial chemical that increases products' perceived protein content but that can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure.
Four infants have died and 54,000 other children sickened in mainland China after drinking milk powder adulterated with melamine.
The tainted milk scandal that broke out last month has sparked global concern about Chinese food imports, with more than 30 countries restricting Chinese dairy products, and in some cases all Chinese food imports. -- AP
[Note: This is curious. Why should melamine be found in baking agent? I would not be surprise if in a few days, M'sia backtracks on this and declares it was a mistake. Not the first time they have shot off their mouth before checking their facts.]