Following Melamine Revelations, Calls Come for Baby Formula RecallNov 28, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP The revelation earlier this week that some U.S.-made baby formula had tested positive for the industrial chemical melamine has some consumer advocates calling for a product recall, according to a report in the Associated Press. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to insist that the amount of melamine found in the baby formula poses no risk, and that U.S.-made baby formula is safe.
Earlier this week, the FDA said tests on 77 samples of U.S.-made formula detected “trace” amounts of melamine in one sample. According to a report in the Associated Press, the melamine was found in Nestle's Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron. That formula had two positive tests for melamine on one sample, with readings of 0.137 and 0.14 parts per million.
According to CNN.com, 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.
According to the Associated Press, another brand, Mead Johnson's Infant Formula Powder, Enfamil LIPIL with Iron, had three positive tests for cyanuric acid, at an average of 0.247 parts per million. The FDA said last month that the toxicity of cyanuric acid is under study, but that in the meantime it is "prudent" to assume that its potency is equal to that of melamine.
The FDA is telling parents that it is safe to feed their babies U.S.-made infant formula. But in past, the FDA has maintained that no amount of melamine is safe for infants.
The Associated Press said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has already called on the state's public health department and the FDA to recall both the Nestle and Mead Johnson products. She also criticized the FDA's handling of the melamine information, the Associated Press said.
"The agency apparently withheld the results of its testing from the public for over three weeks, and then only disclosed the information in response to a FOIA request by The Associated Press," she wrote in a letter to Michael Leavitt, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the FDA.
The group Consumers Union and at least one member of Congress have also called for a recall.
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 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.
According to the FDA, U.S. infant formula manufacturers do not obtain ingredients from China. 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.