Melamine Found in U.S. Baby Formula, FDA Says

<"">Melamine has been detected in a sample of U.S.-made infant formula, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday.  Though melamine-tainted formula has sickened tens of thousands of children in China, the FDA maintains the amount found in the U.S.-made baby formula poses no danger.

Melamine is an industrial chemical that is used to make plastics, fertilizer, and fire retardants. In recent years,  a number of Chinese manufactures have been involved in scandals involving melamine tainted food.  In those cases, melamine was added to products in order to make it appear they contained higher levels of protein.

In 2007, melamine-tainted wheat gluten, used as an ingredient in pet food, killed at least 16 dogs and cats, sickened thousands of others and led to one of the biggest pet food recalls in American history.

Melamine is a renal toxin that can cause kidney stones and acute renal failure if ingested in large amounts.  In China, melamine-tainted formula has sickened over 50,000 children, killing at least four. The melamine was apparently added to milk powder by manufacturers to make it appear that their watered-down baby formula was more nutritious than it really was.

Melamine has since been found in dozens of foods around the world that had  been made with Chinese-manufactured milk powder.  More than 13 countries, including the U.S., discovered products made with melamine-tainted ingredients.  The list of tainted food  included  candy, yogurt, frozen desserts, biscuits, instant coffee, milk tea products, and other beverages.

Since the Chinese infant formula scandal broke, the FDA has been detaining imports from that country that contain dairy ingredients for further testing.  The agency has also been testing U.S.-made baby formula, although U.S. manufacturers do not obtain ingredients  from China for formula sold in the U.S.

According to the FDA, tests on 77 samples of U.S.-made formula detected “trace” amounts of melamine in one sample.  According to, last month, the FDA set the safety threshold for melamine at 2,500 parts per billion for foods other than infant formula. The agency said it did not have enough data to set a safety threshold for infants.  The amount of melamine found in the sample of infant formula was less than 250 parts per billion, said.

In the U.S., melamine is not allowed in human or pet food, although the FDA has approved melamine as a “food contact substance.”  An FDA source interviewed by The Wall Street Journal speculated that the melamine contamination was the result of contact with the chemical during processing and packaging.

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