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Report uncovers melamine in US infant formula

By Neil Merrett , 26-Nov-2008

Some leading brands of infant formula manufactured and sold in the US have been found to contain traces of the industrial chemical melamine, albeit it at small amounts, news reports suggest.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has played down any potential danger from the findings, which were uncovered by the Associated Press news agency, suggesting levels of the chemical, which is linked to the recent Chinese dairy scandal, were much lower in US infant formulas.

Risk Assessment

The reports come just a month after FDA findings suggested the risk assessor was unable to set a safe level of melamine contamination in infant formulas after issuing a wider ruling on the chemical’s presence in food products containing milk.

Melamine is a chemical that can make it appear there is more protein in a product, and has been linked to causing kidney stones and other health problems.

Recent contamination of milk products and infant formulas from the chemical in China have been linked to the hospitalisation of thousands children in the country and at least three deaths.

However, a spokesperson for the FDA told the Associated Press that despite the detection of some melamine traces in three leading US-made infant nutrition products, the levels were extremely low and did not require parents to reconsider their children’s’ diets.

According to the report, the presence of melamine and the chemical relative, cyanuric acid, are thought to have unintentionally contaminated the products during the manufacturing process.

Limitations

Although playing down the potential health impacts of the chemicals’ presence in the infant products, which the report says are linked to branded goods from groups like Nestle, the risk assessor faces some difficulties.

FDA claimed last month that establishing a limit on the chemical’s presence in infant formula was currently impossible, owing to uncertainty over the specific impacts of melamine in an infant’s body.

The regulator added that this did not necessarily suggest that any exposure to the chemical in infant formula would definitely harm infants, but that there was too much uncertainty to outline specific guidelines for consumers.