On Friday, November 28, 2008, the FDA set a guideline for the safe consumption of melamine. In an CNN news report, Miriam Falco writes, “After first saying that they could not determine a threshold for the safe amount of certain toxic chemicals in infant formula, Food and Drug Administration officials said Friday that trace amounts are safe” [“FDA sets ‘safe’ levels for melamine in baby formula,” MiriamFalco, November 28, 2008].
No illnesses have been reported that are associated with the U.S. formula, but four infants have died from the tainted Chinese infant formula. Several thousand others have been hospitalized. However, the levels of melamine in Chinese formula are much greater than those found in U.S. formula.
Infant and Pet Food Contamination
Melamine first made news when it was found in several brands of pet food. Melamine causes urinary tract problems, and several pets actually died from kidney failure. Much of the contaminated food was traced to Menu Foods, a Canadian manufacturer of several different name brands and generic brands of pet food. Soon after this discovery a massive pet food recall was issued.
Melamine was later found in Chinese infant formula. Chinese formula is not imported to the U.S., so no action was taken other than a warning to avoid the formula. Some formula does make its way into the country and into ethnic grocery stores.
The substance made its way into the Chinese formula through the milk supply. By adding it to food, it makes the protein content look higher. It is unclear how melamine got into the pet food. It could have come from cleaning supplies used on the machinery used to process the food, or perhaps from the packaging of the pet food.
Melamine in U.S. Infant Formula
After the pet food and Chinese milk scares, the FDA began testing U.S. infant formula. Several large U.S. manufacturers’ formulas tested positive for trace amounts of melamine. Previously there was no safe level of melamine consumption as set by the FDA. Now they say that any level below 1ppm (part-per-million) in infant formula is safe. For non-infant foods, the FDA has stated a safe level of under 2.5 ppm.
The manufacturers that have had melamine found in their formula are Mead Johnson, Nestle, and Abbot Laboratories. These companies produce Enfamil, Good Start, and Similac formulas, respectively. The levels found in all the brands are below the newly set FDA limit. The FDA recommends that parents continue feeding their babies as usual.
For more information, please go to the FDA’s website about melamine contamination.