More U.S. Infant Formula Tainted with MelamineJan 8, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
Melamine and its byproduct, cyanuric acid, has been found in more U.S. baby formula, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has announced. This is the second time that the industrial chemical has turned up in baby formula in this country, but the FDA continues to insist that U.S. supplies are safe.
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 tens of thousands of children, killing at least six. 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. formula makers do not obtain ingredients for their products from China. But as we reported in November, the agency had detected “trace” amounts of melamine in one sample of U.S. made infant formula. 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.
The Associated Press also reported that another brand, Mead Johnson’s Infant Formula Powder, Enfamil LIPIL with Iron, had three positive tests for cyanuric acid (an analogue of melamine), 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.
In November, the Associated Press also reported that Abbott Laboratories had said in-house tests had detected trace levels of melamine in its infant formula. A spokesperson for the company told the Associated Press that the levels detected were below what FDA found in the other formulas,
Now the Associated Press is reporting that the FDA says it has detected the chemicals in four of 89 containers of infant formula made in the U.S. The new count comes from the same round of tests that led to the November Associated Press report, and represents an update, the agency said. According to the Associated Press, the updated results show that two additional containers of Enfamil LIPIL with Iron had traces of cyanuric acid.
Back in October, the FDA issued a public statement that levels of melamine and its analogues below 2.5 ppm in foods other than infant formula do not raise public health concerns.” According to CNN.com, the agency said then that it did not have enough data to determine a safe level of melamine and its analogues in infant formula.
But after the melamine revelations were made in November, Stephen Sundlof, the FDA’s director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, told CNN.com that “Amounts of the industrial chemical melamine or the melamine-like compound called cyanuric acid that are below 1.0 ppm [1,000 parts per billion] do not raise public health concerns." According to the Associated Press, no U.S. infant formula has tested over that level.
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 in November speculated that the melamine contamination was the result of contact with the chemical during processing and packaging.