An admission that the industrial chemical is regularly added to animal feed in China has fueled fears that the problem could be more widespread, affecting fish, meat and possibly many other foods.
Melamine is rich in nitrogen, which means that it gives low-quality food and feed artificially high protein readings. But extremely high levels of melamine can cause kidney stones, and in some cases can bring on life-threatening kidney failure.
However, there have been no tests on melamine's precise effects in humans.
Until the contaminated baby formula became public in a few months ago, there was never any reason to. The situation has left consumers worldwide, particularly parents, worried about food products from China, and even those made elsewhere with ingredients imported from Chinese companies.
In the wake of the tainted dairy scandal, Chinese authorities are now admitting that the use of melamine -- an industrial chemical -- as filler in animal feed (which is also exported abroad) is a widespread practice. At this point there’s really no telling what, or how much, of your food might therefore contain this hazardous material.
In May of 2007, reports surfaced that Canadian-made fish feed for farmed fish had been contaminated, and the use of melamine in chicken feed is the cause for this latest contamination found in eggs from China’s leading egg producer, Dalian Hanwei Enterprise Group.
Melamine has become a popular profit booster because it shows up as a protein in some tests used to determine the nutritional value of a foodstuff.
Manufacturers use the compound to make their products appear more nutritious.
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.
I find it baffling that toxicity experts would dare insinuate that this dangerous material would not likely sicken humans, despite the fact that at least four babies have died, and some 54,000 have been hospitalized from contaminated infant formula and milk products.
Since when are children not considered humans?
They claim the amount of the chemical in most foods, such as meat products, for example, would be too low to cause harm. But in reality, they have NO IDEA whether or not melamine might cause serious health effects in humans, besides renal failure – which in and of itself is bad enough, if you ask me.
What is Melamine?
Normally used in the manufacture of plastic and fertilizers, melamine is a compound composed of nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen. It was invented in the 1830s by a German scientist, and became a fashionable material for plastic household goods and laminates in the late 1930s.
When combined with formaldehyde and exposed to extreme heat, melamine creates a moldable material that is virtually unbreakable once cooled.
And therein lies the most obvious health problem.
As explained in a recent article in the journal Eurosurveillance:
“Melamine, when associated with cyanuric acid, can cause renal failure by the formation of insoluble melamine cyanurate crystals in renal tubules and/or the formation of calculi in kidneys, ureter, urethra or the urinary bladder. These calculi are a mixture of melamine, protein, uric acid and phosphate and as such are distinct from other kidney stones.”
Cyanuric acid is a white, odorless solid, used as a component in bleaches, disinfectants, and herbicides.
The FDA also permits a certain amount of cyanuric acid to be present in some non-protein nitrogen (NPN) additives used in animal feed and drinking water. In water, cyanuric acid is mainly used as a precursor to N-chlorinated cyanurates, which are used as disinfectants.
When melamine combines with the cyanuric acid, it forms fine, insoluble, and unbreakable little “plastic stones,” which your body cannot dispose of.
Additionally, there is evidence that melamine is carcinogenic under conditions that produce bladder stones in animals. And yet they insist that this compound is more or less harmless to humans.
In the European Union, the tolerable daily intake (TDI) of melamine is 0.5 mg/kg body weight, even though studies to evaluate the real risks of melamine on human health are lacking.
Symptoms of Melamine Toxicity
China and other countries like Canada and the U.S. have reported melamine contamination of milk-containing products, including infant formula, commercially sold milk, frozen yogurt dessert, coffee creamer, ice-cream, chocolate, toffees, cookies and candies.
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
It would certainly be wise to visit your physician if your child exhibits any of these symptoms. The melamine “stones” will show up on x-rays.
There are also an estimated 27 million Americans suffering from chronic kidney disease, who would want to take extra precautions with the foods they consume, in light of this disturbing contamination trend.
The bottom line here is: know where your food comes from and how it’s produced. This may sound like an impossible task, and in many cases it will be. Particularly if you depend on processed and commercially farmed foods.
However, if you purchase your raw dairy, organic grass-fed beef, and free-range eggs from local farmers that adhere to organic farming practices, you can eliminate much of these worries since their livestock must be put out to pasture and eat what God intended for most part of the year, instead of relying on potentially contaminated animal feed.
This reference page contains links to a long list of organizations that can help you find local sources for high quality organic foods.