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The New York Times reports that traces of the toxic chemical melamine has been found in samples of US baby formula, raising questions about the safety of a product trusted by parents and given to infants. Melamine is the same toxic chemical that was found in Chinese infant formula and that has been blamed for three deaths and the sickening of more than 50,000 infants there.

According to the story, melamine or a chemical relative have been detected by either federal or private inspectors in formula manufactured and sold by all three of the major US formula suppliers - Abbott Laboratories, Nestle and Mead Johnson.

In China, it has been reported that the melamine was used deliberately in baby formula to artificially inflate the product’s protein levels. In the US, according to the Times it is being said that the melamine occurred during the manufacturing process, and was not put in the product intentionally.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responding to the revelations by saying that while there is no safe level of melamine exposure for infants, it would be a mistake for parents to stop giving formula to infants that need it for proper nutrition. FDA describes the levels of melamine as being at “trace” levels.

The Associated Press story says that “melamine is used in some U.S. plastic food packaging and can rub off onto what we eat; it's also contained in a cleaning solution used on some food processing equipment and can leach into the products being prepared.”

Both stories also note that to this point, no illnesses in the US have been attributed to the presence of melamine in baby formula.
KC's View:
Wasn’t it just a month or two ago that the FDA was saying that low levels of melamine exposure isn't necessarily harmful?

In view of the fact that the Times reports this morning that the FDA starting testing US formulas for melamine back in September, that begins to look a little suspicious…like FDA was covering its rear end just in case.

And since the US decided not to allow any Chinese dairy products to be sold in US because of melamine concerns, doesn’t it then follow that it ought to be moving more decisively in the case of US-made baby formula?

It begins to look, as in so many cases, as if the FDA is more interested in protecting business than in protecting consumers. Which may sound good to industry, but really isn’t…because if consumer confidence and trust is undermined, that ultimately is bad for business.

And the federal government isn’t doing itself any favors when Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, is quoted by the Times as saying that “the agency had never said, nor implied, that domestic infant formula was going to be entirely free of melamine” and that “he didn't know if the agency's statements on infant formula had been misinterpreted.”

Give us a break.