Why, Oh Why? Melamine in Infant Formula?

(Editor’s Note: With “healthcare reform” beginning to gather steam (see previous posts at IA on the subject), an equally important area of concern involving health and safety issues involves the FDA and who may be appointed to head this department.  See here for a rundown from the  Washington Post on the problems the agency faces and a list of possible candidates being considered by the Obama Transition Team.–InsightAnalytical-GRL)

~~By kenosha Marge

I’ve been following the story about melamine in infant formula. It just seemed so indicative of our dysfunctional government that a toxic substance would be in a substance that we should insist be as close to100% safe as could possibly be achieved. Isn’t the FDA there to protect our children and us? Shouldn’t they be leading the charge to ensure that standard? They would if we had a government agency that protects and serves the people of this country and not the corporations.

I learned that melamine is sometimes illegally added to food products in order to increase the apparent protein content. I learned that there are tests that estimate protein levels by measuring the nitrogen content, so they can be misled by adding nitrogen-rich compounds such as melamine. Oh yummy! High protein and sticks to your ribs too.

Ingestion of melamine may lead to reproductive damage or bladder or kidney stones, which can lead to bladder cancer. Is that a chance most parents would want to take with their babies? Probably not but then they would have to be aware of the problem before they could get all irate about it wouldn’t they? And then they would have to disbelieve the FDA which now says, “nothing to worry about here”.

A short time ago federal food regulators said they were unable to set a safety threshold for the industrial chemical melamine in baby formula. Now, however, they found a way to settle on a standard that allows for higher levels than those found in U.S.-made batches of the product. It’s perfectly logical if you believe that what was bad last week isn’t bad this week. It’s perfectly logical if you believe the FDA knows what the hell it’s talking about or if you think they give a crap about the safety of the citizens, and their babies, of this or any other country.

Food and Drug Administration officials set a threshold of 1 part per million of melamine in formula, provided a related chemical is not present. They insisted the formulas are safe. Because saying that the formula was not safe would be bad for business don’t you know, and that’s the FDA’s real concern.

The Associated Press reported that FDA tests found traces of melamine in the infant formula of one major U.S. manufacturer and cyanuric acid, a chemical relative, in the formula of a second major maker. The contaminated samples, which both measured at levels below the new standard, were analyzed several weeks ago.

What exactly is melamine? Before I get nuts about it perhaps I should know a little more about what I’m discussing. After all, it’s only infant formula and how important can that be?

Let’s see: Melamine is an organic base and a trimer of cyanamide, with a 1,3,5-triazine skeleton. Like cyanamide, it contains 66% nitrogen by mass and, if mixed with resins, has fire retardant properties due to its release of nitrogen gas when burned or charred, and has several other industrial uses.

I am not a chemist. I do not understand a whole lot about about chemicals. All I know is that there are a whole lot of them I do not want to find in food. Particularly in infant formula. Who knew we needed a fire retardant in infant formula? Has there been a rash of infant formula fires I didn’t hear about?

Let’s try the wisegeek. Hmm, wisegeek says: “Melamine is an organic compound that is often combined with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin, a synthetic polymer which is fire resistant and heat tolerant. Melamine resin is a very versatile material with a highly stable structure. Uses for melamine include whiteboards, floor tiles, kitchenware, fire retardant fabrics, and commercial filters. Melamine can be easily molded while warm, but will set into a fixed form. This property makes it ideally suited to certain industrial applications.”

I don’t know about anyone else but the idea of something that is used to make floor tiles being inside infant formula disturbs me. I used to eat off of melamine dishes. The idea of ingesting them never occurred to me. Nor anyone else I know.

No need to worry because our every vigilant FDA is once again lagging to the rescue and sorting out all the brouhaha.

The Food and Drug Administration was formed in 1901 as the Bureau of Chemistry. Then in 1927 it became the Food Drug and Insecticide Administration. The word insecticide somehow got dropped along the way and we have our current champions, the FDA. Their headquarters are at 5600 Fishers Lane in Rockville, Maryland. They have about 9300 employees and an annual budget of $2.3 billion. The commissioner and politician in charge is Andrew von Eschenbach. Their parent agency is the Department of Health and Human Services.

These people have a budget of $2.3 billion and they can’t guarantee the safety of infant formula? Oh wait, they just tell us it is safe to have one of the ingredients for floor tile and kitchenware in infant formula. This is the agency that is supposed to protect the foods we eat and the medications we take. Perhaps I am being alarmist when I just don’t think having an ingredient for floor tile in baby formula is a good thing. Maybe I’m just a tad picky about what chemicals my great-granddaughter might be ingesting when I give her a bottle.

A more naïve me used to believe that the FDA would protect the citizenry and ensure that their foods and drugs were safe. It has now my belief that every agency in Washington D.C. is all about protecting corporations from their many and egregious assaults on the public health. When does corruption cross over into depraved indifference as they say on Law and Order?

Many of us are told that we are slobs and it’s our fault that we aren’t healthy cause we don’t eat right and don’t exercise and oh, by the way, it’s quite all right to feed your baby floor tile. Non-fat and no sugar! Hooray. And you won’t find that at a Fast Food drive through. Or maybe it’s in the food there too. Oh my.

What to do, what to do? Go graze in a nearby field? Chomp on the bark of a tree? Or are they saturated with pesticides that contain chemicals that will make rot us from the inside out?

The one thing you can safely count on is that your government will do nothing to protect you and everything it can to protect the corporations that are poisoning you and your children. Because the corporations got the money and the power and we/you/me don’t. That is ultimately why the FDA is telling us that certain levels of melamine are not harmful in infant formula. The question is, how many of us believe them?

15 Responses

  1. Why oh why are so many of our foods from other countries?

  2. Why Marge, you silly PUMA! How can we integrate into the Global Economy and become Citizens of the World if we don’t lower our standards to that of China and even Third World nations?

    Now be a good little Obamite and hush up! After all, it’s only children, and teh One won’t be around when they have all those nasty diseases in a few years. They can just curse at his statues.

  3. Hey, Marge..

    One man’s pleasure is another man’s poison…
    Or is it the other way around?? No matter…same difference!!

  4. Oh, come on now, didn’t you know that worrying about your own health, or the health of your family, is not the new way? There’s CHANGE in the world now! We need to set our own concerns aside for the greater good! Isn’t that what PEBO tells us? And obviously the greater good is for the corporations. After all, it’s the corporations that keep the economy going, right? The executives in their luxury jets, with their luxury vacations to luxury destinations – they’re the ones spending the money to keep the economy going, doncha know! So, there’s a little floor tile in the baby food. Big deal. And that fire retardant? Well, at least the babies won’t implode, right? Come come now, Comrade, you must drink of the kool-aid to help you see the light of HOPE and CHANGE! It’s for the greater good!

  5. Sorry Grail, can’t be an Obamite and don’t have it in me to just shut up. Many have tried to get me to do so and all have failed.

    I don’t want to eat tainted food myself but I’m an old dog and my years are winding down. What is being done to infants with this kind of blatent poisoning should frighten all of us.

  6. OH, Marge, just be thankful that you don’t have MERCURY in your water..Oh, wait, didn’t TPTB sort of “slide” on that one, too???? Or was that arsenic in the water? Silly me, can’t keep track of the crud in the water….

  7. PS…and let’s not forget how DOGS and cats were dying from the stuff coming in from China awhile back!! I threw out a couple of cans of “good” food that I keep around just in case…
    I’m doing Honest Kitchen, cooked turkey, and some California Natural low-cal now..I’ve used California Natural for years, but even they have to be watched…Somewhere I have a site that keeps watch on all this stuff….must try to find it…

    Here’s one specifically for dogs…The Dog Food Project


  8. Marge,

    We love you just the way you are, and would have to disown you if you followed our snarky suggestions. Have no fear – I would never even say it in snark to someone I thought might consider it…

  9. I think we can rest assured that the Government in all it’s infinent wisdom, or rather lack of wisdom, will not bother protecting us from anything. Not chemicals in food or baby formula, not corruption of big business and certainly not corruption of government by politicians and those who support their corruption.

    If they won’t even keep baby formula safe they will certainly have no qualms about allowing our citizens to be “at risk” for the sake of all their “friends” ie: money machines. Disgusting is a word that comes to mind. Also criminal.


  10. Really, GG~

    The corruption charges against the Illinois government are just another day in the park for those of us who live here. We do have one of the MOST CORRUPT state governments – heck – city (Chicago), too in the nation.

    If they haven’t already opened a “Governors’ Wing” at the Federal Pen in downstate Illinois, they should.

  11. I don’t depend on the government for food quality. (or much else) We don’t eat packaged food. Only fresh food that we cook ourselves. Organic grains and vegetables and grass-fed meats. Our grandbabies are breast fed.

    I recovered my health by eating macrobiotically. I started reading Dr. Sherry Rogers’ books many years ago and she warned about the dangers of toxins in our food and water supplies and our environment and how to protect ourselves from them.

    I know it sounds dry and boring but it’s really not. We have five children (our youngest is a senior at NMSU)and we bake our own breads, cakes, etc. I’ve taught them that the one thing that they can control in their life is what they put in their mouth. Make good choices and good health follows.

    We have three dogs (2 standard poodles and a standard dachshund) and four cats. We feed them California Naturals/Innova. All are in excellent health. One cat is seventeen years old and going strong. We do give them supplements.

    I hope I didn’t bore you all to death. But I prefer to have as much contol over my own life as possible and not depend upon a bunch of useless, incompetent and often dishonest bureaucrats .

  12. RuthAnn…I do Cal. Nat low fat and Honest Kitchen!!!
    I made sweet potato pizza crust with my homegrown greens and olive oil on top..wonderful! Had it today!!
    I eat only whole foods now, and do everything from scratch. Except for a couple of low-protein items which I need and some organic sour cream/neuf cheese….I read about macrobiotics a long time ago, but would love to really learn more!

    I have to email you! Have been so busy!!!

  13. I studied macrobiotics under Denny Waxman in Philly for five years. Denny taught me that the body can overcome anything. I sat in on consults with Denny for two years and took notes for the clients. I saw miraculous healings occur.

    My daughter is raising her babies macrobiotically. They are beautiful, healthy babies, a 20 month old girl and a 3 week old boy. She has been preparing macro baby food for her friends. I think that when we get settled in here (we’ve been doing a lot of renovations) I would like to give some cooking lessons.

    Have you noticed that when you stop eating packaged food and change to a good quality seasalt that food just tastes better?

    Anyway, I would enjoy talking to you about macro. E-mail me and I’ll give you my telephone number. I have tons of books you might enjoy.

    BTW, my husband is jealous of your figs. He bought a cutting from the University but it’s not producing.

  14. Hi Marge,

    Don’t even consider ever shutting up. Keep doing what you do so well. Giving us the information that we need to make better decisions, helps those of us who neglect to do the research on our own.

    My son always bought Iams cat food for his beloved cats. He thought that because it was one of the most expensive, and so highly recommended by Vets, that it would be the best for his cats. As a result two of his cats died and he still hasn’t gotten over it.

    I am in complete agreement with Christopher Waldrop of Consumer Federation of America when he says the Food should be separated from the Drug department. And to me this includes pet food. Our pets are very important members of our family and deserve a little better consideration from the FDA. But since they aren’t too concerned with the food inspections for humans, what can we expect?

    With the Dept. of Health and Human Services as the parent agengy for the FDA, and Tom Daschle as head of HHS, I don’t expect any improvement.

    This melamine in baby’s formula really disturbs me. Why look for the safe amount to use? Why use any at all?

    Again, Marge, don’t ever shut up. Keep going – I have yet to read any of your posts or comments that I disagreed with.

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