Trace Melamine Found In Popular U.S. Baby Formulas

Trace Melamine Found In Popular U.S. Baby Formulas

…Previously undisclosed tests, obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the FDA has detected melamine in a sample of one popular formula and the presence of cyanuric acid, a chemical relative of melamine, in the formula of a second manufacturer.

Separately, a third major formula maker told AP that in-house tests had detected trace levels of melamine in its infant formula.

The three firms – Abbott Laboratories, Nestle and Mead Johnson – manufacture more than 90 percent of all infant formula produced in the United States.

The FDA and other experts said the melamine contamination in U.S.-made formula had occurred during the manufacturing process, rather than intentionally.

The U.S. government quietly began testing domestically produced infant formula in September, soon after problems with melamine-spiked formula surfaced in China.

…FDA scientists said then that they couldn’t set an acceptable level of melamine exposure in infant formula because science hadn’t had enough time to understand the chemical’s effects on infants’ underdeveloped kidneys. Plus, there is the complicating factor that infant formula often constitutes a newborn’s entire diet.

…The Grocery Manufacturers Association, for example, told its members: “FDA could not identify a safe level for melamine and related compounds in infant formula; thus it can be concluded they will not accept any detectable melamine in infant formula.”

It was not until the AP inquired about tests on domestic formula that the FDA articulated that while it couldn’t set a safe exposure for infants, it would accept some melamine in formula – raising the question of whether the decision to accept very low concentrations was made only after traces were detected.

…According to FDA data for tests of 77 infant formula samples, a trace concentration of melamine was detected in one product – Mead Johnson’s Infant Formula Powder, Enfamil LIPIL with Iron. An FDA spreadsheet shows two tests were conducted on the Enfamil, with readings of 0.137 and 0.14 parts per million.

Three tests of Nestle’s Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron detected an average of 0.247 parts per million of cyanuric acid, a melamine byproduct.

The FDA said last month that the toxicity of cyanuric acid is under study, but that meanwhile it is “prudent” to assume that its potency is equal to that of melamine.

And while the FDA said tests of 18 samples of formula made by Abbott Laboratories, including its Similac brand, did not detect melamine, spokesman Colin McBean said some company tests did find the chemical. He did not identify the specific product or the number of positive tests.

…Mead Johnson spokeswoman Gail Wood said her company’s in-house tests had not detected any melamine, and that the company had not been informed of the FDA test results, even during a confidential agency conference call Monday with infant formula makers about melamine contamination.

The FDA tests also detected melamine in two samples of nutritional supplements for very sick children who have trouble digesting regular food. Nestle’s Peptamen Junior medical food showed 0.201 and 0.206 parts per million of melamine while Nestle’s Nutren Junior-Fiber showed 0.16 and 0.184 parts per million.

The agency said that while there are no established exposure levels for infant formula, pediatric medical food – often used in feeding tubes for very sick, young children – can have 2.5 parts per million of melamine, just like food products other than infant formula.

The head of manufacturing for Nestle Nutrition in North America, Walter Huber, said in an interview that the company took samples alongside FDA officials who visited a manufacturing plant, and that those samples showed similar results to what FDA found for the two pediatric medical foods. Huber added that Nestle didn’t fund cyanuric acid in any of the samples.

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