Scientists at Consumer’s Union, a nonprofit group, believe that a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to allow infant formula contaminated with melamine or its byproducts to remain on store shelves is “seriously flawed.”
The FDA tested 89 containers of U.S.-manufactured infant formula and reportedly detected traces of melamine in a can of milk-based liquid Nestle Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron, and traces of cyanuric acid in three different cans of Mead Johnson’s Enfamil LIPIL with Iron.
The FDA says studies show that the dangers of health effects are only a concern when both chemicals are present. Because dual contamination is key, there have been no recalls of the formulas.
Consumer’s Union is concerned that the FDA was assuming parents would never feed their babies more than one type of formula. They point to a case where one mother fed her baby two different formulas because “one caused constipation, and one caused loose bowels, but together the baby’s digestion seemed just right.”
The International Formula Council, an organization representing major infant formula makers, said doctors generally recommend feeding infants only one type of formula.
An FDA spokeswoman said the agency’s testing “found that the U.S. supply of infant formula is safe,” but that they were reviewing Consumer’s Union concerns.
In China, melamine has caused sickness in 300,000 babies, killing at least six infants. There, melamine was intentionally added to watered-down milk in order to show higher protein levels in food quality tests. Byproducts of the milk ended up in various products, including infant formula and coffee creamers.
The concentration levels detected in U.S. infant formula samples were 10,000 times smaller than the levels detected in China’s infant formula. However, there has been little research on what levels are considered safe. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who heads a panel which oversees the FDA budget, called for a zero-tolerance policy for melamine in domestic infant formula.