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