So it’s looking like the great U.S. melamine scare of 2008 has appropriately turned out to be a big nothing. If you missed it, the FDA reported small amounts of melamine in all three of the major formula manufacturers here in the U.S. And if you’ve really had your head in the sand, melamine is the stuff that Chinese milk suppliers were using to create the appearance that their milk was better than it was. The result was 50,000 babies with kidney stones and a few deaths.
So it was true that the FDA found trace amounts of melamine in U.S. formula but at levels that are barely detectable. To illustrate, this is the equivalent of one drop of melamine in 64 gallons of infant formula. Or 10,000 times of that seen in the China scandal. But there’s no scandal here. As it turns out the miniscule levels found here were the result of a solution used to clean manufacturing equipment. Not an excuse by any means but certainly an explanation that doesn’t suggest scandal or appreciable risk. This is a bigger PR problem than a medical problem.
So should parents switch formulas? As an industry-wide finding this wouldn’t appear to make any sense. Sit tight and recognize that in the scheme of environmental exposures to lose sleep over, this ranks twenty or thirty on my list of parental worries.
Should I breast feed? Of course you should breast feed. But not everyone can breast feed and not everyone breastfeeds forever. I’m not able to find any studies on Pubmed that have evaluated melamine transmission in breast milk. Remember that when it comes to environmental substances, breast milk isn’t always the solution we wish it were. What mom gets baby often gets. Think bisphenol-A, unfortunately.
While the formula industry has been conspicuously silent on the issue, I haven’t. You can see me on Houston’s Fox News Channel here.