Melamine In Infant Formula

A recent article by Britt E. Erickson in C&EN news, discusses the issue of having Melamine in infant formula. Melamine is an organic compound created in the 1930’s and has various uses such as making plastics, laminates, and even fertilizer. It is also one of the main chemicals used to make dishwasher safe materials. Uunfortunately, the chemical is used by many food companies as a cheap and abundant filler substance for things such as livestock feed, pet food, and now, baby formula. In various tests used to determine the nutritional value of food, Melamine shows up as a protein due to its chemical makeup, so many food manufacturers utilize it as a way to make their products seem more nutritious. When inside the body, Melamine can result in kidney stones and renal failure.

In September, there was a controversy in China regarding Melamine in baby formula. Over 1,000 babies were found to have kidney stones after consuming infant formula containing Melamine. In late November, after the Melamine scare in China, the US FDA declared that it could not establish a safe level of Melamine for infant formula. However, recently, the FDA had a policy reversal, where it stated that levels of Melamine below 1ppm do not pose a threat to infants. The FDA says that these levels are so low that “they do not pose a risk to infants.” After testing infant formula samples in the US, the FDA found formulas manufactured by Nestle Nutrition, and Mead Johnson to contain Melamine.

After reading the article, I was simply appalled by what I learned. Letting the FDA allow trace amounts of Melamine to be used in baby formula is simply absurd. I was especially concerned because the issue arose in China in September, yet the FDA approved small amounts of Melamine only after doing a few months of research. It seems that the risks are too high, especially after what happened in China. I think our FDA should take more caution and do more testing before taking such a risk with infants.

Comments (6) Add yours ↓
  1. adetmer

    I think that if the FDA first said they “could not establish a safe level of Melamine for infant formula” then later goes on to say that less than 1ppm is a safe amount then there is probably inadequate and incomplete research on the subject. I find it scary that the FDA is allowing this substance to be in these products even if it is in trace amounts. It would make sense to band melamine until further extensive research is conducted because there is obviously adverse health effects to consuming it.

    9 December 2008
  2. csimmons

    I am really, really not surprised. Compared to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), I think the FDA is a joke. We seem to always be one step behind them in banning unsafe foods and products. An example unrelated to food but still important – there were knee joint replacements on the U.S. and European markets for years, but research showed that they were defective and degraded or broke within a few years. The E.U. banned them, while they continued to be sold on U.S. markets for at least five more years. It’s really ridiculous. The E.U. has a Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) that in 2007, had 7354 alerts for safety concerns in food, 12% of them of Chinese origin (http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/rapidalert/report2007_en.pdf). It covers mercury content, food supplements, and pesticides, to name a few. In general I think the EFSA is more progressive than the FDA in banning foods until thorough research has been completed. A comparison of the FDA’s website (http://www.fda.gov/) versus that of EFSA (http://www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_home.htm) indicates to me the importance of exhaustive research and relaying it to the public.

    10 December 2008
  3. awood

    I completely agree with you Christine. I have come to find that Americans really cannot rely on the FDA to make the right choices about our food (or general product) safety. I found it shocking that many countries (including many in Europe) will not import food, particularly meat, from the US because of the low standards of the FDA and the use of previously banned chemicals. Now that’s scary. Not to mention the China lead export of a few years ago that included toothpaste, cosmetics, and pet food. That was the first time that I realized that imported products don’t follow the same manufacturing restrictions as products made here. Your average consumer isn’t checking which products are imports versus homemade, they are assuming that they all pass the same standards and are equally safe. Well, maybe not any more…Cynical as it is, I’ve come to regard these government agencies as just another business trying to make a dime and not too concerned with who gets hurt in the meantime.

    10 December 2008
  4. rkoehler

    I find it ironic that everyone’s afraid of Chinese imports due to the melamine issue as well as the multiple items that had to be recalled in the past year due to traces of lead in paint, yet it appears as though we can’t even trust our own government. I know many people are cynical in general about the level of trust we can have in governmental agencies but the fact that the FDA seems to be apathetic to the food and beverages it allows its own citizens to consume pretty much qualifies as one of Dr. Kassel’s all too frequently occurring “astounding moments.”

    10 December 2008
  5. nharmuth

    It scares me that there has been a lot of focus on chemical threats to children lately – lead in paint, BPA in baby bottles, and now melamine in formula. I feel like there is something seriously lacking as far as regulation of products is concerned. Perhaps it’s my age getting the best of me right now, but I’m extremely concerned about raising children in the future and knowing that they are going to be protected from harm’s way. If the government is allowing trace amounts of melamine in baby formula who knows what else is floating around in our drinks and food.
    So it’s been decided, I’m taking over the FDA!

    10 December 2008
  6. csimmons

    According to storyofstuff.com (a great video, definitely recommend you all watch it), there are 100,000 synthetic chemicals in use today, and only a few have been tested for health effects, let alone synergistic effects. The highest concentration of toxins in mammals is in human breast milk. Where is all the regulation for how our products are made, how many resources it’s allowed to use, and how safe it is for us?

    10 December 2008

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