China’s Baby Formula Disaster – Melamine

China’s Baby Formula Disaster – Melamine

child drinking formulaSimon and I consciously choose to not watch the news or read newspapers very often, as they are mostly  a source of “great distress”. I am however linked to many health websites that keep me briefed regarding hot topics or we have friends and loved ones who keep us up-to-date with “newsy” items such as the latest formula disaster.

China’s health minister last week reported their third death from a contaminated baby formula. A total of 6,244 babies have been sickened so far by the tainted powdered formula and more than 1,300 babies remain hospitalized, including 158 for acute kidney failure, in what has become a rapidly widening food safety scandal.

The minister, Chen Zhu, presented the figures just a day after the government said a dangerous chemical additive had been discovered in samples of infant milk powder produced by 22 Chinese dairy companies. Before that disclosure, officials had focused their investigation on a single company, the Sanlu Group, which has acknowledged producing formula powder laced with the additive, melamine.

Melamine is a chemical that finds its way into many products. It is often used to create thermosetting plasticsmelamine foam, polymeric cleaning products, it can also be used to make fertilizers.  It may also be combined withformaldehydeto produce melamine resin.

The end products include countertops, dry erase boards, fabrics, glues, housewares and flame retardants.
Please see related blog on “Tips for Keeping Toxic Fire Retardants out of your House and your Children!”
One report quoted Melamine as a major component in the  Pigment Yellow 150, a colorant in inks and plastics.

(Just a side note what they did not mention is that -Yellow 150(a,b,c &d) are colourings also used in the “caramel” food range. Some caramel colourings are thought to damage genes, inhibit growth, cause enlargement of the kidneys and intestines and can destroy Vitamin B. Yellow 150 colours are used in oyster sauce, soy sauce, fruit and canned sauces, beer, whisky, biscuits and pickles.)

With this in mind you too are probably wondering, how does melamine end up in milk?

Well dairy farming is a rapidly expanding business and competition is fierce. In the past, Chinese farmers have admitted using the chemical to artificially inflate protein levels in feed or other agricultural products. Some dealers have admitted to diluting milk with water, but doing so lowers protein levels. As a result, melamine, rich in nitrogen, is sometimes used to artificially inflate those levels.

(Melamine use as non-protein nitrogen (NPN) for cattle was described in a 1958 patent. In 1978, however, a study concluded that melamine “may not be an acceptable nonprotein N source for ruminants” because its hydrolysis in cattle is slower and less complete than other nitrogen sources such as cottonseed meal and urea.)

Chinese dairy companies quickly began recalling products, including the country’s largest dairy operation, Mengniu. At the same time, the government has sent more investigators to inspect dairy companies across the country.

This scandal is especially charged politically because Chinese government officials pledged to reform food safety regulation after numerous problems last year. In one highly publicized case, thousands of pets in the United States were sickened by pet food made with a Chinese ingredient tainted with melamine.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong authorities also announced this week that traces of melamine had been discovered in frozen yogurt made by the Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group. In response, the Hong Kong supermarket chain Wellcome announced that it would stop selling frozen yogurt made by the company.

Chinese officials have blamed the company for failing to come forward about the problem while Sanlu company has blamed suppliers for providing tainted milk.Parents with sick children began complaining as far back as March, and Fonterra, a New Zealand dairy corporation that owns a large minority stake in Sanlu, said it learned of the problems in August and apparently tried to prod Sanlu into making a public recall. Sanlu however did not do so until state media reported the problems last week.

This has obviously been a very sad and distressing scenario for the children and families involved. It has also been a sobering reminder for food authorities and consumers alike, of the dangers when chemicals find their way into our food.

Yours in Health

Jennifer Barham-Floreani
Bach. Chiropractic, Bach. App Clinical Science
Registered internationally, no longer practicing as a chiropractor in Australia.

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