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FAQ: Melamine in U.S. Baby Formula

Questions and Answers About Trace Amounts of Melamine in U.S. Infant Formula
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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.

Which brands of U.S. baby formula contain melamine?

According to the Associated Press, FDA tests detected trace amounts of melamine in Mead Johnson's Infant Formula Powder, Enfamil LIPIL with Iron.

Melamine levels in the product were very low: about 0.14 parts per million. The deliberately contaminated baby formula in China contained over 250 parts per million of melamine -- at least two thousand times higher than the U.S. contamination.

The AP report also said the FDA detected cyanuric acid in tests of Nestle's Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron, at about 0.25 parts per million -- again, some thousand-fold less than in Chinese formula.

In addition, the AP report said that while the FDA tests came up negative, Similac maker Abbott Laboratories said some company tests did find traces of melamine, at concentrations below 0.05 parts per million.

These three manufacturers -- Mead Johnson, Nestle, and Abbott -- make more than 90% of the baby formula sold in the U.S.

Is U.S. baby formula safe?

Nobody knows for sure -- but several experts tell WebMD they think U.S. baby formula is safe, despite containing trace amounts of melamine.

All melamine and melamine-related contaminants detected in baby formula have been well below the 1 part per million level deemed safe by the FDA in its Nov. 28 update to its risk assessment of melamine and melamine analogs.

Here's the opinion of Marcel Casavant, MD, chief of clinical pharmacology/toxicology at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, medical director of The Central Ohio Poison Center, and director of the Central Ohio Lead Clinic.

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