What Should I Know About Melamine in Baby Formula?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

In the late 2000s, the toxic chemical melamine came to the attention of much of the world, due to actions in China. Over 50,000 infants were sickened and some deaths occurred because China had high levels of melamine in baby formula, which was intentionally added as a means of increasing formula nutritional value. A related poison, cyanuric acid, had been added to pet food, and killed or sickened pets around the world, at the same time. Deep concern was raised regarding the use of either of these poisons, which can cause extreme damage to the kidneys and in tragic circumstances have resulted in deaths.

Some parents prefer to make baby formula at home in order to ensure its purity.
Some parents prefer to make baby formula at home in order to ensure its purity.

Due to much demand on the part of consumers, regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) began to test for melamine in baby formula, even when the formula was manufactured outside of China. Many were shocked to find out that there was indeed melamine in baby formula of a number of types, or other formulas contained cyanuric acid. There were several differences in the findings that are important to consider.

First, no company was placing melamine in baby formula intentionally. Instead, the FDA and other organizations concluded that it got into the formula via the manufacturing process. Second, levels found in most infant formulas were extremely low, and ultimately, most regulatory groups concluded that there were acceptable levels of ingestion that would not cause sickness. Interestingly, organizations like the WHO call these levels “acceptable,” instead of “safe.” Most regulatory agencies felt that it was not necessary to remove formula from the shelves or dramatically change manufacturing since melamine levels were “acceptable.”

The conclusions drawn regarding melamine in baby formula are not adequate for all parents. The statement, “It’s okay for a baby to ingest trace elements of poisons every three to four hours,” is not always an acceptable one. Some parents don’t feel confident, and they may have some choices to make.

One option to avoid melamine in baby formula is to look for formulas that did not test positive for melamine. Unfortunately, they could in the future since the poison may be created in the manufacturing process.

An additional solution is to create homemade formulas. This can be time-consuming but it is certainly possible to make nutritious infant formula at home. Again, purity of ingredients is not necessarily assured.

Melamine in baby formula continues to pose a serious issue in health and human wellness. Though regulatory agencies have determined acceptable levels, no one is enamored with the idea of feeding any level of a dangerous poison to a baby. On the other hand, solutions to avoiding the issue may not be that much better than keeping a baby on a commercial formula.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


They knew it was in their formula and continued to sell it, so I think that then makes it "intentional". Love the fact that you just leave breastfeeding out of the equation too - and the tip toeing when mentioning the formula companies.


Alternative Three: Breastfeed. Of course, some things pass into breast milk, but it's less likely baby will get the assorted poisons that keep being discovered and labeled "acceptable."

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