baby formula, baby formula milk
Associated Press

FDA Issues Warning About Baby Formula from China

September 12, 2008 02:00 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
Infant formula produced in China has the same contaminant that affected thousands of U.S. cats and dogs in 2007.

Baby Formula Causing Kidney Stones

More than 1,200 infants in China who consumed the Chinese-made Sanlu baby formula have developed kidney stones or become sick, and FDA officials in the United States want Chinese-American communities to avoid using the product if they have it.

Importing Chinese-made baby formula is illegal, and officials say they don’t think the Sanlu product has found its way to the United States yet. However, there was an instance where a Chinese-manufactured formula was discovered in a store in New York in 2004.
The Sanlu formula contains melamine, the same type of plastic found in pet foods that affected thousands of cats and dogs several months ago. In food, melamine can give “the appearance of a high nitrogen level, which is an index used to measure the protein content,” a health expert said in a Xinhua news article. But when consumed, melamine can cause reproductive damage, or bladder or kidney stones.

China’s Health Ministry has warned that those responsible for the contamination will receive “heavy punishment.” Officials have questioned dozens of people who could have been involved in the milk powder contamination, including dairy farmers and milk dealers. Sanlu won’t disclose whether its own employees are being investigated.

Complaints about the formula were apparently filed with Sanlu as early as March. However, Chinese officials reported they didn't know about the problem until a few days ago. The New Zealand dairy farmers' cooperative Fonterra, which owns a portion of Sanlu, said it urged action in recalling the tainted milk six weeks ago. Fonterra is the world's biggest milk trader.

U.S. Formulas Safe

U.S.-produced baby formulas are not at risk of contamination, Janice Oliver, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a Reuters article. The five approved makers of milk-based formula reported that they do not use ingredients from China. Reuters listed those producers as Abbott Nutrition, MeadJohnson Nutritionals, Nestle USA, PBM Nutritionals and Solus Products.

Background: The fake milk scandal

This isn’t the first time Chinese consumers have faced a baby formula scare. In 2004, several infants suffered from malnourishment after receiving “fake milk,” according to the BBC. The nutritional value of some of the powder was so poor that it contained just one-sixth of the protein and other nutrients babies need to develop properly. Some infants were so malnourished after drinking the milk that they developed what doctors called “big head disease,” and others died.

Related Topic: Infant, child safety issues

Reference: Infant nutrition


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