Q&A on Melamine

Melamine is an organic base chemical most commonly found in the form of white crystals rich in nitrogen.

What is melamine generally used for?
Melamine is widely used in plastics, adhesives, counter-tops, dishware, whiteboards and fertilizers.

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Why was melamine added into milk and powdered infant formula?In China, where adulteration has occurred, water has been added to raw milk to add to its volume. As a result of this dilution the milk will have a lower protein concentration. Companies using the milk for further production (e.g. of powdered infant formula) would normally check the protein level through a test measuring nitrogen content. Therefore the addition of melamine - because of its rich nitrogen content - could increase the level of nitrogen, which again masquerade as falsely high protein levels as the standard protein test only measures nitrogen content. This means that the adulterated milk would have an artificially high nitrogen level, which would be interpreted erroneously as a 'normal' or 'high' protein level.

Addition of melamine into food is not approved by the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius (food standard commission), or by any national authorities.

Has melamine been found in other food products?
In 2007, melamine was found in pet feed manufactured in China and exported to the United States which caused the death of a large number of dogs and cats due to kidney failure.

In the present event, melamine contamination has been found in a number of different brands of powdered infant formula, in one brand of a frozen yogurt dessert and in one brand of canned coffee drink. All these products were most probably manufactured using ingredients made from melamine contaminated milk.

What are the health effects of melamine consumptions in humans?
While there are no direct human studies on the effect of melamine on humans, extrapolation from animal studies can be used to estimate adverse health effects. When combined with another chemical (e.g. cyanuric acid which is also present in melamine powder) melamine can form crystals which can give rise to kidney stones.

These small crystals can also block the small tubes in the kidney potentially stopping the production of urine, kidney failure and in some cases death. Melamine has also been shown to have carcinogenic effects in animals.

What are the symptoms and signs of melamine poisoning?
Irritability, blood in urine, little or no urine, signs of kidney infection, high blood pressure

What is the cure for kidney failure?
Patients may receive various types of treatment, depending on the severity of kidney failure. Treatment may include infusion of fluids and urine alkalinisation, administration of sodium bicarbonate and insulin, blood and peritoneal dialysis, or surgical removal of kidney stones.

With more and more milk products from China and Taiwan having problem. We really got to check where the things are produced. Here is a way to differentiate Taiwan made products and China made products : by looking at first three digits of its Bar Code.

If the first 3 digits are 690, 691 or 692 - China made
If the first 3 digits are 471 – Taiwan made

More info on MELAMINE HERE.

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