Confectionery companies encounter melamine scares

It began with reports that melamine-tainted milk had been sold to infants and children in China, killing four infants and sickening 54,000 children. As horrific as that scandal was, the impact soon spread further, with investigators having tracked down melamine-tainted milk powders affecting processed foods, including confections.

The first indications regarding melamine-contaminated confections came from Singapore, with the city’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) reporting that samples of White Rabbit brand Creamy Candy contained the industrial chemical. Within short order, White Rabbit confections were being taken off shelves throughout Asia and Australia.

In response to reports claiming that melamine was found in Cadbury chocolate, the company, as a precautionary step, recalled all of its chocolate products and Choclairs that were manufactured in Beijing. The products manufactured at the Beijing facility are exported to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia. The one product exported to Australia, Cadbury Eclairs, was voluntarily withdrawn. A small amount of Eclairs are also exported to Nauru and Christmas Island. It is unknown what amount of the chemical was found in the chocolates.

According to Cadbury’s statement, “No other products and countries are affected and consumers in all other countries can continue to enjoy our products with confidence.” Cadbury will begin making replacement product as soon as possible.

Attuned to the global implications of the scandal, The Hershey Co. issued a statement saying that the company has never purchased milk ingredients, including powdered milk, from China. As Cadbury’s sole U.S. distributor, The Hershey Co. said that all U.S. Cadbury products are safe to consume.

Following reports in Hong Kong claiming that traces of melamine were found in a Nestlé milk product, Nestlé announced that none of its products in China are made from milk containing melamine. Soon after the reports, the Hong Kong Government’s Food and Environmental Health Department released a report declaring that tests performed on Neslac Gold 1+, mentioned in the press reports, did not detect melamine in the product.

Mars, including Mars China, has also issued a statement about the melamine scare, assuring its consumers that none of its products are contaminated with the chemical melamine. An independent laboratory in Germany tested samples of milk powders supplied to the Mars China facility. The results of the tests showed that all samples were clear of the chemical.

Independent tests performed by government authorities in Hong Kong, Thailand and Korea along with samples tested by AQSIQ (the Chinese food safety watchdog) also confirmed that the products are melamine-free.

Melamine, which is an industrial product used in plastics manufacturing, can be added to foods to artificially increase their protein content. The harm from ingesting melamine is related to weight and cumulative intake. It can create kidney stones and in some severe cases lead to kidney failure. Infants and young children are most prone to its toxic effects.

Urbanski captures Stroud Jordan award

Last year’s Stroud Jordan award winner, Ed Wilson from AarhusKarlshamn, presents John Urbanski from Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate with this year’s honor at the American Association of Candy Technologist’s annual conference in Lincolnshire, Ill., last month.

Barry Callebaut's Patrick De Maeseneire (left), ceo, and Massimo Garavaglia, president Americas, share ribbon-cutting honors in opening the first U.S. Chocolate Academy in Chicago.

Barry Callebaut opens first U.S. Chocolate Academy

On Sept. 24, 2008, Barry Callebaut opened the doors to its first U.S. Chocolate Academy, located in Chicago. The state-of-the-art 8,500-sq.-ft. training center will provide professionals in the industry an opportunity to hone their skills through course work, demonstrations and special seminars.

“In addition to our 40 factories across the globe, this Academy makes Barry Callebaut the only chocolate company with a presence on all continents,” says Patrick De Maeseneire, ceo.

Rita Athas, executive director of World Business Chicago, subbing for Mayor Richard Daley, who was unable to attend the event, stressed her delight in being able to take his place at the opening. 

Courses at the Academy begin this month, with the goal of improving confectioners’ and bakers’ skills and techniques along with teaching about the latest industry trends in chocolate making.

Confectioners interested in receiving the 2008-2009 Barry Callebaut U.S. Chocolate Academy course catalog and/or to register for classes, can e-mail chocolate_academy_usa@barry-callebaut.com or call (866) 443-0460.  

Cargill to hold 'The Chocolatier's Workshop'

Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate has announced the start of a three-day seminar in Letitz, Pa. called “The Chocolatier’s Workshop.” From Nov. 10-12, aspiring chocolatiers and confectioners will learn through classes and hands-on experience how to make candy and run their own businesses.

The first two days, Cargill specialists and industry experts will teach the beginning confectioners about site selection, ingredients, equipment, product packaging, fundamentals of marketing, advertising and other necessary knowledge. The third day will consist of hands-on confection making, in which participants will learn about chocolate tempering and how to make confections.

“We are excited about this new offering from Cargill,” says Courtney LeDrew, marketing specialist, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate. “We are melding practical business tools with confection making. Our goal is to enable new confectioners and chocolatiers to be more effective and successful in realizing their dreams.”