It's Pretty But Is It Worth the Risk?

Melamine Baby Cup

Now, sit tight: Chinese officials estimate that about 20 percent of the dairy companies in China sell products tainted with melamine which was added to fraudulently increase the milk’s volume. 

Now think about this: when was the last time you had Chinese takeaway? Or et rice crackers? Or anything else that may have milk or soy powder from China in it?

There you go. I don’t know about you, but I am scared eatless.

Melamine, a tough industrial plastic made of petroleum and formaldehyde, has been illegally used in Chinese baby milk formula, which killed at least 4 infants.

Thousands of babies were diagnosed with acute kidney failure.

Melamine caused kidney stones as large as 1 cm in diameter in babies as young as 6 months old.

Chinese leading dairy producer Sanlu recalled all powdered milk which revealed melamine presence in high doses in 22 brands of infant formula. Melamine has also been found in products produced by 21 other companies, including Mengniu, Yili, and Yashili.

The practice of adding “melamine scrap” to animal feed is reported to be widespread in China in order to give the appearance of increased protein content in animal feed.

Melamine can fool nitrogen testing of food products that reveal the protein content because melamine is 66% nitrogen, more than protein.

Standard tests such as the Kjeldahl and Dumas tests estimate protein levels by measuring the nitrogen content, so they can be misled by adding nitrogen-rich compounds such as melamine.

Melamine can cause fatal kidney stones. It is also an irritant when inhaled or in contact with the skin or eyes. Ingestion of melamine may lead to reproductive damage as well as bladder stones, which can lead to bladder cancer.

The combination of melamine and cyanuric acid in diet does lead to acute renal failure in cats. On 30 March 2007, the US Food and Drug Administration reported finding white granular melamine in the pet food, in samples of white granular wheat gluten imported from a single source in China. Further vegetable protein imported from China was later implicated.

Currently, China is the world’s largest exporter of melamine, while its domestic consumption still grows by 10% per year.

Which makes me wonder: if the Chinese cannot consume all the melamine they produce, how soon it appears in crackers, noodles, packaged dinners, and sweets on shelves of the grocery stores worldwide?

What Else You May Want to Know about Melamine…

Manufacture of melamine involves formaldehyde and generates a considerable amount of waste water, which is a pollutant if discharged directly into the environment. The off-gas contains large amounts of ammonia.

Melamine is used combined with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin that makes glossy countertops, dry erase boards, fabrics, glues, kitchen wares, and flame retardants.

Lots of baby cutlery, cups and plates is made of melamine. It’s a cheery, pretty plastic, durable and looks like china. I have just thrown away my daughter’s favorite melamine plate with Winnie the Pooh; I always knew we shouldn’t have bought it. But it was cute. And she actually preferred it to the rest of her plates.

Melamine is one of the major components in Pigment Yellow 150, a colorant in inks and plastics.

Because melamine resin is often used in food packaging and tableware, melamine can migrate to food and beverages. Now, isn’t that a good reason to run, not walk to your kitchen and check what your baby is eating and drinking from? Not to mention that pretty melamine salad bowl and ladle you cherish?

SOURCES: Wikipedia, PubMed (U.S. National Library of Health)