Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Some infant formula found to contain melamine

Another reason to breastfeed…


So there is yet another reason to breastfeed infants.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now set the standard for what it considers “trace amounts” of melamine and its related compounds in infant formula.  You have to be kidding!  As if any level is safe!  Apparently, recent testing has revealed trace amounts of this industrial chemical in numerous popular infant formulas.


You may have heard about the infant formula in China becoming contaminated with melamine and related compounds like cyanuric acid earlier this year.  According to the World Health Organization, the contaminated infant formula has caused four infant deaths and 47,000 infant hospitalizations this year.   And, yes, this is the same set of chemicals found in pet food last year that caused thousands of sickened dogs and cats and often lead to death due to kidney failure. 


For a while, the US consumers thought they were safe – no Chinese infant formulas are approved for sale in the US.  However, the FDA ordered testing of US infant formula after the Chinese health concerns.  While not all the results are in, there have been several name brand formulas found to contain trace amounts of melamine.  While the amounts detected are considered trace amounts by the FDA, that still makes me, as a dietitian and mother, uneasy.  FDA Officials have even said that it is still not possible to set a “safe level” of melamine and related compounds like cyanuric acid in infant formula – but that at very low levels, these ingredients “SHOULD” be safe.


I do not trust health warnings that say “should”, do you?


My advice?  If you can breastfeed, do it!  It is more healthy for a baby and enhances the mother-child bond.  Sometimes, there are situations where breastfeeding is not possible.  In those cases, pay attention to any news updates regarding infant formula.  Perhaps there will be a listing soon, indicating formulas with no contaminants found.  The FDA has not found any need to worry about US formulas yet, so we have to go by that.  I did find that Nature’s One Organic formula contains no melamine (www.naturesone.com) and is highlighting that on their website.  There may be other infant formula websites doing the same.


Since melamine contamination likely occurs during the manufacturing process, this is where increased focus should go.  Sometimes, it is the can liners themselves that introduce the chemical.  Other sources of melamine are in flame retardants, cleaning products, fertilizers and pesticides.  Perhaps infant formula packaged in plastic or another material other than a can would be a safer choice?  While trace amounts of melamine are found in many foods, most adults need not worry.  It is more significant for an infant, whose small body is more susceptible to toxins – especially when they are found in the sole source of nutrition for the baby!


Hopefully, like when other toxins are found in our food supply, there will be an increased awareness and push to eliminate them.  You will likely see more advertising on the matter if you are shopping for infant formula.  And, as always, strive to be an educated consumer in order to select the best nutrition for your infant!


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