FAQ: Melamine in U.S. Baby Formula
Questions and Answers About Trace Amounts of Melamine in U.S. Infant Formula
WebMD News Archive
Is U.S. baby formula safe? continued...
"We don't really know for sure how much melamine is safe," Casavant
tells WebMD. "We do know how much is bad. It's really the dose that makes
something a poison or not. Concentrations of more than 250 parts per million
cause big troubles for some babies. How low does the concentration have to be
to cause no problems for any babies? That's what we don't know for
Casavant notes that the FDA finds melamine concentrations up to 2.5 parts
per million to be safe in products used to feed sick children in the hospital.
Health Canada says a level of 1.0 part per million is safe in infant formula
and 2.5 parts per million is safe in other foods and beverages.
"They based this on finding the lowest concentration to cause problems
in animals, and then divide by 100," Casavant says. "It's just a guess,
but it's the way these guesses are usually made."
Gary Wasserman, DO, chief of medical toxicology at Children's Mercy
Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo., says trace levels of melamine and
other chemicals have probably been present in infant formula for decades. We
find it now because we've just started to test for it.
That's also the opinion of Marvin Wang, MD, assistant professor of
pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and director of newborn nurseries at
Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.
"These formulas have done remarkably well in terms of safety for all the
years they've been on the market," Wang tells WebMD. "We have not seen
reports of the kinds of symptoms you would see in melamine toxicity. ... Unless
the infant formula manufacturers declare they recently made a change in the way
they process the formula, or that they obtained milk products from China, there
is no reason to think these infant formulas are any less safe than infant
formulas that have been on the market for many years."
Scientists never say never. None of the experts who spoke with WebMD would
guarantee that all U.S. infant formulas are safe for all babies. But every one
of the experts says the evidence so far strongly indicates that U.S. infant
formula is safe.