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Baby Formula and Pet Food Contaminations May Share A Link

Oct 16, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

A new study describes how the kidneys are poisoned with a combination of melamine and cyanuric acid.  The study is based on research that was conducted on the toxicity of the compounds that contaminated pet food in North America in 2007.

In March 2007, the Menu Foods Income Fund recalled millions of containers of pet food that were believed to be sickening and killing pets rapidly and by the thousands.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) learned that the food contained the industrial chemical melamine, which was traced to contaminated wheat gluten imported from China.  Menu's products are sold under some 90 different brand names and 200 different labels.

This emerging research looked at possible links between the pet food contamination of 2007 and the ongoing melamine-tainting scandal now occurring in China with milk products.  The research identified the main contaminants in both cases as melamine and cyanuric acid.  While neither compound is very toxic when administered alone and in small doses, when given in combination, the two create a virtually insoluble complex that ends up residing in the tubules of the kidney.  Once there, urine flow is blocked and renal failure occurs.

Melamine is a chemical that has gained notoriety in recent years for its ability to cheat nutrition tests; the chemical was originally designed to make plastics, fertilizer, and fire retardants.  Because melamine possesses high nitrogen contents, it can create the appearance in food of being high in protein and has been used in recent years to falsify protein levels in foods.  In the current melamine-tainting scandal, the toxic chemical was added to watered-down baby formula to create the impression of high protein levels in the diluted products.  Melamine is now turning up in a wider variety of foods containing dairy products such as yogurt, dairy drinks, milk teas and coffees, biscuits, cheese, yogurt, candy, and ice cream.  The scandal has caused a series of international recalls and has wreaked significant damage to the dairy industry in China.

Melamine can cause kidney problems—including kidney stones and kidney failure—when ingested and is also to blame for the death of four and the illnesses of some 54,000 children in China.  Some dairy suppliers have been arrested and the Chinese government has dismissed some local and national officials for negligence.

Cyanuric acid is another industrial chemical and a weak acid that is marketed as chlorine “stabilizer” for swimming pools.  Cyanuric acid is a white, odorless solid that is used in bleaches, disinfectants, and herbicides and has been intentionally added to animal feed by producers seeking larger profits.  As with melamine, Chinese animal feed producers blend cyanuric acid into their feed because it is cheaper and it helps to increase protein contents in the foods.

In China, chemical producers say it is common knowledge in the chemical and agriculture industry that for years feed producers in China have quietly and secretly used cyanuric acid to cheat buyers of animal feed.

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