FDA spokeswoman Judy Leon said. "There's no basis for concern because we're talking about trace levels that are so low ... that there's absolutely no risk."
Melamine-tainted formula in China has caused thousands of children to fall ill; several have died. The concentrations in China were as much as 2,500 parts per million — about 10,000 times greater than what the FDA found in the U.S.
The FDA and other experts said the melamine contamination in U.S.-made formula had occurred during the manufacturing process, rather than intentionally as was done in Chinese production. The manufacturers insist their products are safe.
On November 28th, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a new stance, stating it will allow trace amounts of melamine in infant formula. This partly reverses the agency's October assessment that it was safe to consume food and beverages with melamine levels below 2.5 parts per million, with the exception of infant formula. The FDA said at the time that it couldn't determine if there was a safe level of melamine and melamine-related compounds in infant formula.
It is clear that feeding your baby artificial formula instead of breastfeeding triples their relative risk of death. A number of studies point to this fact. But now you have yet another brand new reason to be wary of feeding your baby manufactured, processed formula.
In its usual pro-industry fashion, the FDA has taken the stance that trace amounts of melamine, an industrial chemical, WILL be allowed in infant formulas sold in the U.S., despite the fact that they have no idea whatsoever as to what the “safe” level might be (i.e. how much of this dangerous chemical a baby can consume without it causing terminal kidney damage from the formation of insoluble plastic “stones”).
My guess is, it will require far less than they imagine.
And I surely would not take the fact that the U.S. contamination was due to the manufacturing process rather than intentional dilution as reassurance that the contamination levels are safe.
I’ve previously reported on the issue of melamine-tainted food products from China, and the potential health hazards of consuming this chemical. But there are still more questions than answers on this issue.
I received much of the information below in an email from a reader in the U.K. There’s no telling where it originated (if the creator notifies me, I will gladly credit him or her for it), but I believe the information is valuable enough to share with everyone as it offers some practical guidance, and answers many common questions about this new health threat.
Question: What is Melamine?
Answer: It is an industrial chemical used in the production of melawares – a nearly indestructible, hard plastic. It’s also used in other household items like laminates and fertilizers.
Question: Why is Melamine added to milk powder?
Answer: The most important nutrient in milk is protein. Melamine mimics this protein, so adding inexpensive melamine into the milk reduces the actual milk content required while still making the product appear to have the correct level of nutrients.
In a nutshell: it saves manufacturers lots of money.
Below is a picture of melamine. Looks a lot like milk powder, doesn’t it?
It does not have any taste or smell, so cannot be detected without proper testing for the chemical.
Question: When was it discovered that it had been added to milk products?
Answer: In 2007, melamine contaminated material labeled as wheat gluten and rice protein was shipped from Chinese manufacturers to pet food companies in the U.S. and elsewhere. Thousands of pets died from renal failure as a result.
Early in 2008, Chinese hospitals reported an abnormal increase in infant cases of kidney stones.
In August 2008, China Sanlu Milk Powder was tested and found to contain melamine.
In September 2008, the New Zealand government asked China to investigate the problem, and by September 21, it was discovered that many food products in Taiwan also tested positive for melamine.
Question: What happens when melamine is ingested?
Answer: The melamine can form into insoluble melamine cyanurate crystals in your renal tubules, kidneys, ureter, urethra or urinary bladder.
The following symptoms have been observed in infants affected by infant formula laced with high amounts of melamine:
- Unexplained fever arising from urinary tract infections
- Unexplained crying in infants, especially when urinating, possible vomiting
- Small amounts of blood in the urine
- Acute obstructive renal failure
- Pain on urinating, and passage of stones while urinating
- High blood pressure
- Pain over the kidneys
Although surgery can remove the stones, it can still cause irreversible kidney damage.
The melamine stones can lead to the loss of kidney function, which may require kidney dialysis. It can also lead to death due to kidney failure.
Question: Why is melamine much more dangerous for infants?
Answer: A child’s kidneys are much smaller than those of an adult, and they consume much larger quantities of milk powder (if fed infant formula).
Question: What foods should be avoided?
Answer: Foods originating from China that contain dairy products should be avoided.
Question: Which companies are affected?
Answer: The companies listed beneath may carry certain products affected.
So, What are the Safest Food Sources for Your Baby?
The recurring problem of melamine-contaminated infant formula in various countries around the world is just one more powerful reason why you’ll want to avoid using commercial infant formulas.
Without question, the single best food for a newborn is breast milk.
However, if you're unable to breastfeed your baby, then I urge you to review my series on healthy alternatives to conventional formulas.
Gerber -- which in many people's minds still go hand in hand with the image of "healthy baby” -- never was, and never will be, a real contender against breast milk or homemade baby food.
And please, avoid the mistake of switching to a soy-based formula, as they are even worse, and should be avoided at all costs. It is my strong belief that these dangerous products should be immediately removed from the market and never be consumed by any child, for any reason.