The action, announced by the European Food Safety Authority and the European Commission, significantly expands the potential geographic reach of a milk adulteration scandal in China to now include a range of foods sold around the world. The Europeans said cookies, toffees and chocolates were the major concerns.
The World Health Organization and the Unicef also expressed concern on Thursday about the Chinese milk contamination and the implications for other foods. In the United States, some consumer groups called on the Food and Drug Administration to restrict imports of foods that may contain suspected dairy ingredients from China.
In China, milk products contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine have sickened more than 50,000 young children in recent weeks and created a spiraling government scandal.
While it is illegal to import dairy products and baby formula from China into the European Union, European nations can and do import many processed foods containing milk powder as an ingredient that are manufactured outside of Europe. Such products could contain milk powder from China.
In 2007, the European Union imported from China about 19,500 tons of confectionary products, including pastries, cake and cookies, and about 1,250 tons of chocolate and other prepared foods containing cocoa.
“Children who consume both biscuits and chocolate could potentially exceed the T.D.I. by up to more than three times,” the European Food Safety Authority said Thursday, referring to the tolerable daily intake of melamine that the agency regards as safe. Levels above that could result in kidney stones, Ian Palombi, a spokesman for the agency, said in a telephone interview.