Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Melamine in me?

On a trip to the big Asian Food Market, I gave in to nostalgia and bought a jar of Horlicks - the gigantic-motherlode size. Horlicks is a malted dairy based drink (or is it because you mix it into milk that it is dairy based?) that we used to drink all the time while being happy bouncy kids in Taiwan. Mix a few scoops of the straw colored powder with some warm milk and you have yourself one sleepy kid. My favorite was when, sometimes, the powder didn't melt completely, and would form sweet sticky blobs at the bottom of the mug. Horlicks is made by GSK (holla! my former employer), and is widely sold in Asian countries, Jamaica, and England. I have only been able to find it in the USA imported from Asian countries. Usually, the jar is 400 grams, as you see on Amazon. The only size available at the Asian Store was 2 kilograms! FIVE times the size of the normal 400g jar! I've found the 2kg jar online for 10.99 British pounds, and also in Euros at 29.00 euros. According to google calculator, that's $16.42 and $36.59, respectively, for 2kgs of malty goodness. I think I paid $19.95, or about $1 per 100g.

When the whole melamine-in-milk scandal blew up in China and its associated businesses (which practically includes everybody), I got a little worried that my $20 worth of Horlicks would tragically be tainted with melamine as well; I would be enjoying its rich flavor at the risk of giving myself kidney stones. :-(

Luckily, it seems GlaxoSmithKline still sources its milk from English-speaking countries (UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand). I looked specifically for Malaysian lists of safe dairy products because my 2kg jar is meant to be sold only in Brunei and Malaysia (translation: if you bought it in any other place, drink at your own risk). This list includes source information provided voluntarily by the companies themselves, which means it may not be 100% accurate. The products probably have to be tested individually to be sure. Although some of the sources for some of the companies look quite suspicious, (Campbell Cheong Chan (M) Sdn Bhd - Milk ingredient from Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, France, Indonesia and USA...I don't quite believe that they could get milk from Singapore and Indonesia and not from China) I think (hope) Glaxo is a trustworthy company and would stick to their British roots.

If I get kidney stones, you know who to call. Until then, I will be scraping the sticky blobs of Horlicks off the bottom of my mug.

UPDATE: Hong Kong tested a bunch of dairy products and these are acceptable

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