by Marion Nestle
Oct 22 2008

San Francisco Chronicle: Melamine

Today’s Food Matters column in the San Francisco Chronicle is about the melamine scandals.  Melamine is still a big problem.  It has just turned up as the cause of death of 1,500 raccoon “dogs” (animals raised for fur in China) and in pizzas in Japan.  There seems no end to ingenious uses for making food and feed appear to have more protein than they really do, never mind that melamine forms kidney crystals when mixed with one of its by-products, cyanuric acid.

For the science types among you, the intrepid Procter & Gamble scientists who identified melamine in pet food have just published their toxicology findings.  Take a look at Figure 1, which compares the chromatography of the “control” (safe) cat food with the cat food “tainted” with melamine and its nasty by-products.  And check out Table 1; it reports that nearly 15% of the so-called wheat gluten was actually melamine and cyanuric acid.  The amounts in Chinese infant formula were in the same ballpark, so it’s no wonder that so many babies got sick.  This is a huge scandal and clear indication that our food safety systems need a major fix.