November 29th, 2008
02:09 PM ET

Melamine in baby formula – in the U.S.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/US/11/28/infant.formula.melamine/art.baby.bottle.gi.jpg
caption="Worries over melamine in infant formula started in China and have spread to the United States."]
Elizabeth Cohen
CNN Medical Correspondent

Silly journalists.

By now, you’ve probably heard that the Food and Drug Administration found the chemical melamine in baby formula in the United States. Yes, that’s the same toxic stuff that killed at least three babies in China, and sickened around 50,000 more.

Parents, understandably, are freaking out. So starting on late Tuesday afternoon, when the story broke that melamine had been found in a sample of infant formula made in the U.S., I had the silly thought that the Food and Drug Administration might actually have some information up on its Web site to help sort this all out for parents.

But nothing went up on the FDA’s Web site until Friday afternoon. For three days, the FDA had loads of information up about melamine in Chinese infant formula and in pet food from earlier incidents, but not a single syllable about this potentially deadly chemical in the formula we feed our babies right here in the United States.

“What’s up with that?” I asked FDA Spokeswoman Judy Leon, who was kind enough to answer her cell phone on Thanksgiving Day. “Is something wrong with my eyes? Is it there and I’m just not seeing it?”

No, said Leon, there was nothing wrong with my eyes. The site was indeed devoid of any information on the topic during those three days. “What can I tell you?” she said, sounding resigned. “I have nothing to say about that.”

Here are the basic facts about melamine in U.S. baby formula: the FDA has test results back on 74 samples of infant formula and so far it has found trace amounts of melamine in a sample of Nestle’s Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron. They also found trace amounts of a related compound, cyanuric acid, in a sample of Enfamil LIPIL with Iron, made by Mead Johnson. In addition, Abott Laboratories found trace levels of melamine in a sample of its formula, Similac, according to the Associated Press.

Leon at the FDA says these low levels of melamine – monumentally lower than what was in the Chinese formula - pose “absolutely no risk” to babies. Pediatricians I’ve spoken with concur. “To have these tiny amounts in infant formula is of negligible concern,” says Dr. Harvey Karp, author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block” and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine. “The dictum in toxicology is that the dose makes the poison.”

Click here to read what the FDA posted on its site Friday:

For the FDA's test results on infant formula made in the US, click here:

Filed under: baby formula • Elizabeth Cohen • Medical News • melamine
November 29th, 2008
08:35 AM ET

The man who blew up America's closets

Andrew O’Hehir

For me and for anybody else who lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s, the assassinations of Harvey Milk and George Moscone on Nov. 27, 1978, came as the second half of a traumatic double whammy - a regionally and culturally specific version of 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. As I remember it, I was standing in the hallway outside the journalism office at Berkeley High School, talking to a couple of friends on the paper. (I was the editor.) We may well have been talking about stories we were working on in the aftermath of the so-called Jonestown massacre, the mass murder-suicide of more than 900 people, including quite a few with connections to our city and our school, that had happened just nine days earlier in the Guyanese jungle.

Someone came into the hall and told us what had just happened a few miles away, on the other side of the bay. A black-and-white TV was dragged out of the closet, plugged in and kicked around for a while until we could find a station. One of my friends took out a pencil and wrote on the wall: "11/27/78: Milk and Moscone just GOT SHOT!!" I guess he was blogging without knowing it. That scribble stayed there unmolested until after we graduated.

Thirty years later, almost to the day, and after a bewildering number of fits and starts with various directors and actors, the story of pioneering gay politician Harvey Milk - a crucial strand, but not the only strand, in that chaotic autumn of 1978 - reaches us as a major feature film, with Sean Penn in the lead role and Gus Van Sant behind the camera. There are an awful lot of things to say about "Milk," and it's a film that, for anyone who knows the history of these events, will bump into a bunch of questions it isn't remotely equipped to answer.

"Milk" was never going to be just another movie, and in a season marked by the simultaneous election of our first black president and the enactment of a gay-marriage ban in California, it's in danger of becoming primarily a symbol or a statement, and not a movie at all. (For instance, there is an announced boycott of Cinemark theaters showing the film, because of the chain owner's purported anti-gay politics.) But let's say the simplest things first: This is an affectionately crafted, celebratory biopic about a sweet, shrewd, hard-assed, one-of-a-kind historical figure. And they can just FedEx the Oscar to Sean Penn's house right now, so that we don't have to listen to his acceptance speech.


Filed under: Andrew O'Hehir • Film