FAQ: Melamine in U.S. Baby Formula
Questions and Answers About Trace Amounts of Melamine in U.S. Infant Formula
Nov. 26, 2008 -- Tiny "trace" amounts of potentially toxic melamine
reportedly detected in U.S.-made infant formula pose little if any risk to
kids, experts tell WebMD.
Just before Thanksgiving, the Associated Press reported that the FDA had
been testing U.S.-made baby formula for melamine.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, the FDA admitted that one brand of formula
contained very small amounts of melamine. Another brand contained similarly
tiny amounts of cyanuric acid, a related chemical. And a third maker of infant
formula told the AP that its own tests detected small amounts of melamine in
As recently as last October, the FDA said it did not know of any safe level
of melamine in baby formula. Last Friday, the agency said that melamine and
cyanuric acid are safe in baby formula at levels up to 1 part per million.
All of the baby formula that tested positive for melamine or cyanuric acid
had levels of the toxins well below 1 part per million.
In China, melamine was deliberately added to infant formula to make it
appear to have a higher protein content. This resulted in melamine levels
vastly higher than those found in U.S. formula. More than 52,000 children
developed kidney stones. There were more than 13,000 hospitalizations and at
least two deaths.
The FDA has not found any Chinese infant formula in the U.S., and has warned
all manufacturers not to use milk products imported from China unless they have
been tested for melamine contamination.
American-made infant formula is not made with milk products from China. The
trace amounts of melamine detected in U.S. infant formula apparently came from
routine contact with melamine-containing substances during the manufacturing
process. There is no reason to suspect the melamine was added deliberately.
Should parents worry? WebMD consulted with experts who answered your
What is melamine?
Melamine, also known as cyanuramide, is a synthetic chemical product that
forms hard resins when combined with formaldehyde. It is used in a wide range
of products such as cooking utensils, plates, industrial coatings, paper and
paperboard, and flame retardant.
Melamine has also been used as fertilizer, although not in the U.S.
What happens when kids consume melamine?
Humans and animals that consume toxic doses of melamine develop kidney
stones. These hard crystals can block urinary flow and make urination painful.
They can also cause kidney failure and death, pediatric kidney specialist Marc
B. Lande, MD, MPH, of the University of Rochester, N.Y., tells WebMD.