November 29th, 2008
02:09 PM ET

Melamine in baby formula – in the U.S.

Worries over melamine in infant formula started in China and have spread to the United States.

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
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Jeanette

    Why are they allowed to put anything like this into Americas food supply, especially for newborn babies? We have less and less confidence in the FDA all the time.

    December 1, 2008 at 12:19 pm |
  2. Myrna Egbufoama

    I am very concern about the dangerous chemical Melamine which was discovered in trace amounts in the baby formula in USA. Trace amounts adds up in the renal system over a period of time, and if not now could later prove deadly to our children, and yet it is not continuously discussed in the news, I wonder why?? are the TV stations afraid of being sue by these large conglomerates if they informs the media?? This much I know if my grand son has any illness related to this formula not now but during his life time because of the build up of the chemical in his kidney or it has affected his bladder. Both the manufacturer and the TV stations who fail to inform consumers will have a hugh lawsuit on their hands. What I do not understand is that something as important as our baby formula is manufactured outside the US where there is no control. We need an alternative to this "death threat" on our babies. It is the MEDIA JOB to keep the public informed.(concerned grandmother)

    December 1, 2008 at 11:25 am |
  3. Marc

    We still have a couple of cans with Melamine formula. How can we get rid of them? Should they be treated as chemical waste? By throwing them into the trash, do we violate any laws?

    December 1, 2008 at 12:15 am |
  4. Heather,ca

    I just dare any one of those FDA officials to give their baby or the formula if they dare to. Our lovely one sided trade policies and china funded rebate checks put us in this mess. They take the money from the made in china products we buy and use it for everything except safety standards and regulations. The FDA does nothing because the Chinese would take it as a insult. Of course complaints only count from within their own country. The only power we have is NOT to buy it. We have purchasing power. We may not have a say in trade policy but we do have the right to say I am not buying products made in China. If the FDA wont or cant do anthing to protect us we have to say thats it Im buying made in the USA or other country but not CHINA!

    December 1, 2008 at 12:04 am |
  5. Julie San Diego, CA


    If you're not able to breast feed, get online and check out the La Leche League for a chapter in your area. They may be able to connect you with a lactating mother that has excess breast milk. Mothers have been freezing and storing milk for others for many years, there's absolutely no shame in providing the best you can for your child – and if you read the ingredients on the formula labels you will see that whey, corn syrup, and powdered vitamins aren't the best for a child.

    Just be sure to get some proof that the donating mother eats a good diet and is healthy and free of any communicable diseases (most hospitals test mothers-to-be for HIV so this should be easy to verify). Many women have formed long-lasting friendships with the moms who have donated or sold breast milk.

    November 30, 2008 at 10:48 pm |
  6. joeblow

    Is Soy formula contaminated with this as well?

    November 30, 2008 at 7:17 pm |
  7. Lloyd

    Greed in capitalism will be our demise! It's a much bigger poisoning of humanity. I'm so flipping sick of the arrogance of business and the wealthy. I'm disabled, i.e. (poor), I am a socialist. Open your eyes.... we're all in this together!

    November 30, 2008 at 6:03 pm |
  8. Teresa, OH

    What is the FDA for anyway? Do they get to decide what goes in our babies??? And what are baby formula makers thinking? where are they getting thier products from? This is outrageous. If I had a baby on infant formula I would be on the phone and websites demanding answers as to what is in the formula. I'm having visions of projectile baby vomit and am wondering if melamine upsets tummies.

    As the saying goes: breastfed is BESTfed.

    @stacy: Best of luck with your baby.

    November 30, 2008 at 1:27 pm |
  9. James

    Is there any way to bring the FDA to justice for the murder of US citizens? Is there any way to bring the FDA to civic trail for compensation for the damages they have done to innocent lives? Is there any way to make the FDA accountable?

    November 30, 2008 at 12:39 pm |
  10. earle,florida

    People, the FDA is nothing more than a ,"empty shell" in a game controlled by big Pharma , with little government intervention because their lobbyist are tethered to the politicians ankles permanently? If you want something done today ,you must start a grass-roots effort spearheaded by consumers willingly to boycott these products(loss of revenue,hurts their pocketbooks) for change. It's absurd that this great country of ours must (compromise) lower our standards for our childrens health to benifit a communist country!

    November 30, 2008 at 11:44 am |
  11. KAREN

    Its a shame we cant trust are formula eny more thats why if a woman can brest feed she should do it ,my baby was 9 pounds and i had no milk to feed her,but my nabor who hade her baby the same time as me feed my daughter for me,its alot healther,but the makers of such poison should get in alot of trouble for what they did.

    November 30, 2008 at 10:02 am |
  12. Kelly

    How on earth could plastic of any type be considered safe for human consumption?!! And, could melamine be a causation of autism in babies/children?

    November 30, 2008 at 5:22 am |
  13. stacy lloyd scranton,pa

    my baby is in the NICU she is taking a soy formula is that also affected

    November 29, 2008 at 6:44 pm |
  14. DJ

    I find it absurd that Melamine be used in any food product. From what i understand, the chemical can lead to kindey stones and bladder cancer, even if it is only when taken in large doses. Why even risk such a thing? Whats wrong with putting it up on the web site, letting people know that it isnt harmful in small doses and then let them decide wether to take the risk of feeding it to thier children or not? i'm so tired of how these officials ommit the facts. I dont even want to think of their reasons behind the decisions they make. maybe they think us too stupid to make our own choices.

    November 29, 2008 at 4:23 pm |
  15. Erika

    How is it that the FDA can tell us that "none" is acceptable when the melamine tainted formula is affecting babies in another country, but that a small amount is okay when the chemical is found in US formulas?

    "Monumentally lower" is not an acceptable amount. It's tragic enough that so many mothers are choosing not to breast feed-something which we're told over and over again is better for our children, but as a mother who was physically incapable of producing sufficient breast milk to sustain my daughter I'm feeling doubly wounded-first because my body failed me as a mother and second, because the product that I'm using to feed my child is now potentially even more harmful. Shame on formula manufacturers and the FDA for allowing this.

    November 29, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  16. Lizzi Davis

    WTF? They're hopeful?

    Yeah well I'm 'hopeful' that my baby brother doesn't get sick or die of melamine. Even if it's only trace amounts, you never know.

    November 29, 2008 at 3:39 pm |