Melamine in Milk

melamine-structure-3DUPDATE: Melamine Milk Update, January 22, 2009

Sciencebase will be keeping you updated on the melamine scandal with opinion from the experts and the latest news on the story as it unfolds.

Several thousand babies in China became ill, having apparently suffered acute kidney failure, with several fatalities, having been fed formula milk allegedly contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine. The toll is far higher than was previously admitted by the Chinese authorities, according to the BBC. Click here for a list of melamine contaminated products.

One manufacturer, Sanlu, part-owned by New Zealand’s Fonterra Cooperative, recalled all of its powdered milk products in China’s north-west province of Gansu. However, twenty-two brands, including China Mengniu Diary Co and Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group, of milk powder were quickly identified as containing melamine. “The majority of afflicted infants ingested Sanlu-brand milk powder over a long period of time, their clinical symptoms showed up three to six months after ingesting the problematic products,” Health Minister Chen Zhu told Bloomberg Asia.

Allegedly, someone in the supply change, milk supplier or manufacturer, was adding melamine to the milk formula to artificially inflate the reading for protein levels. Formula milk was not until now tested for melamine, because regulators did not suspect this ingredient might be added. But, it turns out that melamine in the food supply is China’s big open secret.

So, what is melamine and how does it spoof the protein levels in baby formula milk?

melamine-structureMelamine is an organic compound, a base with the formula C3H6N6. Officially it is 1,3,5-triazine-2,4,6-triamine in the IUPAC nomenclature system (CAS #108-78-1). It is has a molecular mass of just over 126, forms a white, crystalline powder, and is only slightly soluble in water. It is used in fire retardants in polymer resins because its high nitrogen content is released as flame-stifling nitrogen gas when the compound is burned or charred.

Indeed, it is this high nitrogen level – 66% nitrogen by mass – in melamine that gives it the analytical characteristics of protein molecules. Melamine can also be described as a trimer of cyanamide, three cyanamide units joined in a ring. It is described as being harmful according to its MSDS sheet: “Harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Chronic exposure may cause cancer or reproductive damage. Eye, skin and respiratory irritant.” Not something you would want in your infant’s milk. However, that said, the toxic dose is rather high, on a par with common table salt with an LD50 of more than 3 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.

Previously, melamine was found in exported pet food last year and blamed for killing thousands of cats and dogs in the US. Bloomberg also reports that analysis of samples of ice cream produced by Yili have also revealed the presence of melamine. Regardless of crushing inflation and legislative pressure, there is no excuse for the adulteration of food in this way. Diluting a product, the previous approach, is highly unethical and can lead to malnutrition, but straight poisoning is tantamount infanticide. This is also not the first time that Chinese consumers have faced problems with milk powder. In 2004, more than a dozen children died having been fed formula with minimal nutritional content.

sanyuan-milk-safeAccording to The Beijinger milk has been withdrawn from the likes of Starbucks as it emerges that regular milk has been tainted, including that produced by Olympic sponsor Yili. However, milk from more than 400 companies including Sanyuan and Nestle have tested negative for melamine and are presumably perfectly safe to drink.

But, if melamine has low toxicity (hat tip to commenter Barney) then what is it that has poisoned thousands of babies in China and why has this scandal occurred? Well, LD50, the toxic dose issue, tells us something about acute exposure not the apparent six-months’ worth of accumulated exposure these babies have suffered. Chronic exposure to melamine can lead to bladder or kidney stones and even bladder cancer and as we have learned, acute kidney failure. Health problems such as these can land you in the hospital. Most treatments cannot be given at home, therefore you will not have the comfort of your Ergohuman couch or bed. Many hospitals do not have the luxury of offering Ergohuman mattresses to their patients.

The melamine in milk headlines also ignore the fact that the compound added to the milk may not be pure. There is no reason to imagine that those unscrupulous enough to add a toxic compound to baby formula milk would worry about contaminants, such as cyanuric acid, that might be found in the raw material. Indeed, even if melamine toxicity were not an issue and truly was an inert substance added to spike the protein readings in quality control tests, then any one of the impurities associated with rough melamine manufacture may be a major cause for concern.

UPDATES: A melamine apology from the Chinese premier, Melamine Scandal Widens and Milky Melamine, melamine and kidney failure.

156 thoughts on “Melamine in Milk”

  1. The government machinery of Health need to be further strengthened as to provide safe milk formula. Indeed laws are there but are not implemented.

  2. what other tests besides kjeldahl method could be performed to check the adulteration in amino acid content?

  3. Dear Barney,
    I admit you might not be a Chinese schill…but the jury is still out.
    Regarding pricing, two seconds of your time with google will give you some rough ideas of what price melamine trades for on the open market…
    …and the answer is about $0.65/pound. CHEAP-O!!!!!!
    My search was instantaneous at finding this from ICIS market guide:
    “Negotiations for 2010 quarter one (Q1) contracts were in progress with the majority of producers proposing a price hike of $200-300/tonne compared to the fourth quarter of 2009. One major southeast Asian producer pegged his target prices at $1,500-1,560/tonne CFR Asia, citing strong support from downstream segments.
    Fourth quarter (Q4) contracts were reported to have been largely settled within the range of $1,250-1,300/tonne CFR Asia. The majority of contracts were reported at $1,270-1,300/tonne CFR Asia with a small number of contracts settled earlier at $1,250/tonne CFR Asia.”
    And these are prices for the usable stuff…not the fouled or screwed up mixtures.
    And Barney, these prices fit with my experience in industrial research in wood flooring (such as MDF production). Compare to the price for powdered milk, around #3-4 per pound bulk pricing.
    Oh, and please consider the stoichiometric amounts of reactive nitrogen in melamine…which is 66% nitrogen by weight… a far higher content than that found in all natural protein rich products such as powered milk.
    … meaning that small quantities of melamine yield a big bang for the buck in jacking up the supposed protein content (as interpreted by proxy nitrogen using the Kjeldahl technique).
    Bottom line, Barney, Melamine is a cheap-o cheat that means $$$ of savings for cheating Chinese.

  4. I need to reply to “Oh, really?”
    If you know where this cheap, waste-product melamine can be purchased, I’d like to know. I can find an industrial use for it where it will not affect the health of people or animals.
    Melamine is manufactured from urea in a relatively complicated, high pressure process. The only cheap-o grade of melamine that I know of is material that was manufactured off-spec.
    The continued contamination problems in China illustrate the many problems facing the Chinese as they grow into a world power. Off spec chemicals continue to be a major problem around the world and China is a dumping ground for these chemicals including chemicals from the US.

  5. 1) You say: “The melamine problem appears to have been resolved.”
    …uh, no, it continues. “Discovery of Melamine-Tainted Milk Shuts Shanghai Dairy” – 01/02/2010 NYTimes.

    2) You say: “This theory is bolstered by the fact that melamine is more expensive”. You are, again, very wrong. Chinese penny pinching is what this on going scandal is all about. Industrial grade Melamine, the waste-product employed in this ongoing scandal, is cheap, far cheaper than natural food protein powders. I presume you’re indexing analytical grade melamine, the expensive stuff, not the waste melamine that’s used.

    3) You say “contaminant in the melamine that caused the problems, not the melamine itself”. Wrong…almost correct, but it won’t fly, pal. The cheap-o grade melamine that’s used to spike foods is contaminated…and the melamine combines with the contaminant to form kidney stones and kidney failure. Melamine stones are what is formed.

    (This post edited to remove personal references)

  6. Well, I’m not sure what actually caused the kidney failure but I do know that my family and I do not buy any food if it is labelled as coming from China. I try not to buy Chinese products at all but that is next to impossible. This choice is not because I dislike the Chinese (although I have some serious issues with the Chinese government’s rule) but I do not want to buy anything from a society that so clearly shows a widespread disregard for consumer safety. Until that culture changes, I will be avoiding their products and so should everyone. That is the only way a situation like this will change.

  7. David,
    thanks for keeping this website. It is a good informational source. However you seem to be attracting some conspiracy theorists and paranoids. The melamine problem appears to have been resolved. As I wrote a couple of years ago, I thought that it was a contaminant in the melamine that caused the problems, not the melamine itself. This theory is bolstered by the fact that melamine is more expensive per pound than real protein. I do not have references, but have heard in the chemical industry that cyanuric acid was likely the major contaminant.
    And no, Huntsman does not make melamine. There is no conspiracy by President Obama or even ex vice President Dick Chaney.

  8. What information do you actually need Peter, there is a lot on this site and more at the sites to which this and other melamine posts here link to

  9. well i would like to ask more about melamine? how does it affect us? what measures can u give to mentain gud health? and what milk products have you tested positive and negative from melamine? thank and i will wait for the answer…

  10. Maria, while the scandal may have been exposed only recently, it’s not yet known how long the perpetrators were adding melamine to milk products, but are you suggesting that it has been happening for many years? If so, on what basis, and why have we not seen effects on the wider population?

  11. It appears that I had been taking melamine in one or the two type of milk I drank all my life:Powered and non fat canned milk. I did not realized it, first because I don’t drink my milk by itself, and also I don;t drink so much, but suddenly my kidneys filter stopp working, I am in Canada, so my doctor did not understand and did not know why or what to do. what I made it worse is that I am diabetic. I was left inmy own, and I had to seek help from Madrid Clinical hospitals, through their different webs and got basic information and advise. I got myself off of those milks,sodium sugar substitutes,any canned food, cold cuts,just I went into an hyposodium diet and increase,almost double my liquid intake.It took most than six weeks for my kidneys to go back to work and I start topass some type of blue sand and what looked like plastic residuoms. I passed a complain to the food inspections, and still having the milk whatever it appear that in Canada only two laboratories are able to test for melamine .
    The fact is that probbaly it took more than one year for my body to react, I wonder how many other people around the world are suffering symptoms,like itching,back pains, urinary problems, slow rising of the blook pressure, and no they or their doctor could pinpoint the cause.
    As it appears now, we are risking to have melamine in about everything, flours, soups,cookies, bread…and there is not a fast way of tasting it.
    I read in a web some thing that just shook me,”Melamine does not cause the same effect in meat, but gives it flavor and a exciting blue color:”
    Only I have to ask a question”With those p[eople WHO NEEDS TERRORISTS?

  12. Yes, I think I mentioned that point in one of the follow-up articles. Trouble is analysing for protein directly would be slightly trickier and more costly…so a proxy test was used, no one suspected that anyone would spoof such a test using an organic monomer

  13. One thing the article should point out explicitly is that melamine can fool the tests BECAUSE the tests were designed to measure elemental nitrogen as a proxy for protein, cheaper and quicker. If the tests called for the measurement of protein, not nitrogen, melamine contamination would have been caught much sooner.

  14. melamine was the first synthesized by a german chemist justus von liebig in the 1830s,after combining parts of nitrogen,carbon and hydrogen.

  15. Hello. i am doing dairy science, can i knw about the methods to dectect the presence of melamine in milk? it will be very usefull for me. plz.

  16. Melamine is also a metabolite of cyromazine, a pesticide. It is formed in the body of mammals who have ingested cyromazine. It has been reported that cyromazine can also be converted to melamine in plants. Melamine combines with cyanuric acid to form melamine cyanurate, which has been implicated in the Chinese protein export contaminations.

  17. 24 Dec: Sanlu declared bankrupt

    26 Dec: Six men on trial in China over melamine scandal. They are accused of making and selling melamine

    27 Dec: Dairy firms to compensate almost 300,000 people affected, according to Chinese state media

    31 Dec: The trial of four Sanlu company executives begins. They all face a possible death sentence

    (Courtesy of the BBC)

  18. After hearing and reading about these scumbags, my reaction was very simple: Boycott ALL Chinese products, ALL. That poison was found already in candies, cookies, noodles and Chinese kinds of bami and spagetties, icecream, crackers, eggs, and so on and so on and so on. It`s not only tose Chinese wacks, but also our own gouvernments who do NOTHING about it. It`s a multimillion bussiness. I and my wife liked to eat in a Chinese restaurant now and then, but NEVER again. And something more: Tell YOUR FRIENDS and RELATIVES about it.

  19. Canada has lowered their standards for what an acceptable daily melamine intake level is, matching the standards set forth by the WHO. Canada is the first country to amend health and safety regulations in order to comply with the new “safe” melamine levels set by the WHO. source

  20. Melanine a Silent Hazzard

    Make sure you look at the end – very interesting – perhaps a way to tell where things are made….

    China milk poisoning incidents make everyone afraid to look at the daily news report. Everyday, the reports are changing. No one can clearly tell us what to eat and not to eat.

    1.What really is poisoned milk?

    It is the milk powder mixed with ‘MELAMINE’

    What is Melamine use for? It is an industrial chemical
    use in the production of melawares.

    It is also used in home decoration. ‘ US resistant board’
    Do you understand? Melamine is use in i ndustrial production & it cannot be eaten.

    2.Why is Melamine added in milk powder?

    The most important nutrient in milk is protein. And Melamine has the same protein that contains ‘NITROGEN’

    Adding Melamine in milk reduces milk content and it is cheaper than milk so it lowers capitalization.
    It can give the business man more profit!

    Below is Melamine; doesn’t it look like milk?
    It doesn’t have any smell, so cannot be detected.
    3.When was it discovered$B!)(B

    Year 2007, US cats and dogs died suddenly, they found that pet food from China contains Melamine.
    Sept. 2008, New Zealand gov’t ask China to check this problem
    Sept. 21, 2008, lots of food products in Taiwan tested with Melamine

    4.What happens when Melamine is digested?

    Melamine remains inside the kidney. It forms into stones blocking the tubes.
    Pain will be eminent and person cannot urinate. Kidney will then swell.
    Although surgery can remove the stones, but it will cause irreversible kidney damage.
    It can lead to loss of kidney function and will require kidney dialysis or lead to death
    because of uremia.

    What is dialysis? In fact, it should be called ‘blood washing’; it is filtering all of the body’s blood into
    the machine and then go back to the body.

    The whole process takes 4 hours and it is necessary to dialysis once for every 3 days for the rest of your life.

    Why is it more serious in babies$B!)(BBecause the kidney is very small and they drink a lot of milk powder.

    China currenty has 13,000 infants hospitalized

    It does not matter how much a human being took Melamine. The important point is
    ‘It cannot be EATEN!’

    5.What are the foods to be avoided?

    Foods that contain dairy products should be avoided.
    Remember: Foods with creamer or milk should be avoided.

    6.Which companies are affected?
    7.What do we do next?

    Avoid the above foods for at least six months.

    If you have snack bar, restaurant or coffee shops, stop selling dairy products for the meantime.

    If you have infants at home, change to mother’s milk or find other substitutes.

    Finally, share this information with friends so they will understand the risk of milk poisoning.

    The whole world is scared of China made ‘black hearted goods’. Can you differentiate which one is made in the USA , Philippines , Taiwan or China ? Let me tell you how… the first 3 digits of the ba rcode is the country code wherein the product was made.

    Sample all barcodes that start with 690.691.692 until 695 are all MADE IN CHINA.
    471 is Made in Taiwan

    August 2008 China Sanlu Milk Powder tested with Melamine
    Starting 2008, In China , an abnormal increase in infant cases of kidney stones.
    This is our human right to know, but the government and related departments never educate the public, therefore we have to RESCUE ourselves.

    Nowadays, Chinese businessmen know that consumers do not prefer products ‘made in china’, so they don’t show from which country it is made.

    However, you may now refer to the barcode, remember if the first 3 digits is 690-695 then it is Made in China .

    00 ~ 13 USA & CANADA
    30 ~ 37 FRANCE
    40 ~ 44 GERMANY
    49 ~ JAPAN
    50 ~ UK
    57 ~ Denmark
    64 ~ Finland
    76 ~ Switzerland and Lienchtenstein
    628 ~ Saudi-Arabien
    629 ~ United Arab Emirates
    740 ~ 745 – Central America

    All 480 Codes are Made in the Philippines.

    Please inform your family and friends for them to be aware.

  21. So anybody now should ask for free melamine certificate for food safety. Anybody here can tell me any link about free melamine certification?

  22. I want to share my story about my son who had terrible stomach and abdominal pain back in Dec 2007. He was doubled over crying, telling me his stomach hurt. At the time he was almost 4 yrs old. I took him to the doctor who checked him out pretty thoroughly. She thought maybe it was appendicitis. We monitored him for two days. I paired down his diet to bland food and water. The pain subsided. He felt better in a few days. My first instinct? Cut out the junk food. Up to the day of the pain, he was eating one, two maybe three of those tiny packets of Lotte Koala cookies every other day or so for months. It was a product he liked and I picked it up regularly. I definitely think there are more people out there who have had adverse reactions to melamine contaminated food. Like myself, I think people don’t know how or where to report it.

  23. to James Ragland…I think the reporter who has been following the melamine contamination starting in March of 2007 would love to hear from you…and the lack of response from the FDA…so familiar with the early days of the pet food recall…and I know firsthand! You should send an email to Lisa McCormick at The site has its skeptics but she is one of a few still writing about this subject…I think she saw the bigger picture than some that see a few sick cats and dogs and sees this is so much more than Chinese baby formula making some ill…

  24. My wife suffered from all the symptoms of melamine poisoning after eating a bag of White Rabbit Candy purchased at World Market. World Market passed the buck to their distributor, QFCO, who shuffled us off to their liability insurer, who, knowing that it is virtually impossible at this point to get a firm diagnosis of melamine poisoning, didn’t seem very worried about any repercussions. No lab we contacted would test the sample we had because it would be a “conflict of interest” with their corporate clientele. The FDA won’t test it unless a doctor diagnoses melamine poisoning. Doctors don’t know how to diagnose melamine poisoning. State and County Health departments (we live in Nashville) don’t return phone calls or emails. Everyone wants to bury their head in the sand and pretend that there is no danger to the American public from melamine in the food chain.

    Meanwhile, the FDA continues to maintain that there are no known victims of melamine poisoning in the US. I suspect there are many.

    If there are people out there who feel they have suffered from melamine poisoning, I would like to nake contact with them so we can bring pressure to bear on the FDA and on the importers who are selling poison from their shelves.

  25. I guess we are talking on the melamine subject here, which has become a serious problem and not here to correct spelling of others so nimisha plz stick wid the subject

  26. Nimisha – please don’t insult my commenters. The word “expat” is an abbreviated form of expatriate, i.e. someone who has left their home country to live abroad. Jello, who used the term, most certainly did not mean expert in this context. Now, who looks “not educated”?

  27. Hey Jello,
    You’re not educated! My DAUGHTER knows that expat isn’t a word, she’s three. It is expert. DA DA DA DA DA DA!

  28. It is just disgusting. i wonder what we have done and what are we leaving behind for our children. there are no morals in today’s world and there seems to be no way out for us consumers. no more can we trust the manufacturers, governments …….
    is this the end to the world as we know it?
    will we just poison ourselves to extinction??????

  29. Good discussion. I am a foreigner who has been living in southern China for the past three years and eating local Chinese food everyday. I developed gout while living in China. I am an athletic, active, thin, otherwise healthy, 29 year-old male with no history of the disease. Gout is related to kidney stones and high uric acid. I haven’t heard other expats mention this before so I figured I would give my anecdotal experience. I suspect my problem is related to melamine contamination and cyanuric acid. Curious to know of others in my situation that may have similar kidney or joint problems.

  30. I saw the same video! That’s why I started looking up more sources on melamine!
    Shared it all over myspace and by word of mouth.

    Do the same everyone!

  31. juust watched a video put out by Mike mozart there is a large volume of candy put out by Target
    that has melamine milk put out the FDA knows of the danger but is unwilling to make any noise about it because of the elections.It can be seen on

  32. Someone anonymous on here said the govt. wanted to decrease the population..?
    Well.. that sounds not so far-fetched for corrupted politicians to want to do. The population is just so high.. but it’s still wrong to kill off innocent people.

    Whole milk solids is the same thing as Milk powder right?
    I have this Chocolate flavored soy drink called vitasoy that was manufactured in HK..
    I’ve been drinking this until I found out about this melamine poisoning..
    Can someone tell me > w<?

    16 yr old me.

  33. Eager to request a help for the suffering of toxicity milk for my little kid!

    I’ve read some information about the toxicity of Melamine in Milk in English version and I think that I found some evidences about my daughter’s suffering about her health.
    My daughter had ben drinking the “SanLu” milk powder–highest toxicity brand within all toxic milk powders–total for 2years and 10 months untill the toxicity was published! Now she is three and half years old.
    I’m so eager to request a help! I hope somebody could give me this great help! I hope to get some contact information about a doctor or person who could know how to cure my daughter!
    Now I’m writting the following symptom about my daughter’s body:

    There is not stone found in her kidney(maybe we have a very good feeding method so that the stone does not occur in her kidney at present).But she has strong Chronic toxicity Symptoms. Because I’m not in the medical field, I never think she got toxicity from milk until Chinese government broadcast this information and I stopped feeding her this milk anymore.
    I fund she has been suffering the problem of Eye, skin and respiratory irritant for a very long time. Now her skin is still very dry not like a child’s skin especialy on her feet. Itchy and has a lot of Rash/Pimple all over her body. She has a stone in her left lower eye-lip(I found it maybe about half years ago), 24th, oct, 2008, I checked her left eye-lip again, seems some more stones maybe growing, not sure.
    She had her eyes itchy frequently some time and several times had blood occur in her eyeballs.
    She had long time respiratory problem like a flu. After stopped the milk powder, her respiratory problem suddenly became better but her body still weaker than the time before she had this toxic milk powder.
    Her Stool was dry and black before stopped the toxic milk and yellow after stopped the toxic milk.

    Because English article mentioned that “Melamine is described as being Harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Chronic exposure may cause cancer or reproductive damage…”,Now I have been worrying about her skin and the possible cancer or reproductive damage!
    Is there anybody could give me some information or help me to contact some doctor who may know that how to reduce the toxicity from her body, if possible to recover her skin, etc. In China I asked some doctors, no one knows how to reduce the toxicity from her body, no one doctor knows that Melamine could cause skin problem, no one doctor knows how to reduce
    Melamine from her body!
    I need your help information eagerly!
    Thank you very much for my baby!
    A baby’s mother

  34. IT seems like to me that the government wants to control the population, if it has been going on for up to half a year…and has been found in other foods 4+ years ago…They wouldn’t want to have a large population, would they?

  35. Its terrible of the manufacterers or any other persons involved in the trade to adulterate infants food like this in order to gain or increase their profits. Atually it is similar to killing people for money.

  36. Thanks for that additional information. I’d rather not ingest formaldehyde, that’s one of the minor byproducts of methanol metabolism that causes a hangover when you drink rough hooch.

  37. @Karen

    Here’s a news article on the MelaMilk Scandal that briefly addresses that:

    eTaiwan News September 19, 2008

    “Chen and others expressed surprise that so many farmers would know the process to add melamine to milk. Melamine is not water-soluble and must be mixed with formaldehyde or another chemical before it can be dissolved in milk.

  38. If melamine is quite insoluble, how can they dissolve in milk? Someone suggest that people may be adding urea into milk which latter chemical reaction change it to melamine. Anyone could enlighten us on this possibility?

  39. are these people in their right senses?do they have a conscience? The companies should be charged for murder i mean holocaust against young innocent babies

  40. Noel, it most certainly is alarming. There are hints that the practice of adding melamine to food has been going on for years, there could be dozens if not hundreds of companies involved, none has been prosecuted yet and as far as I can tell nothing is being done at the government level to deal with the issue other than trying to keep a lid on the news, but I stand to be corrected on that if any readers in China or elsewhere have some insider information…

  41. I just wanna know, when did it was discovered that other milk contained melamine? How many companies of milk and other products using melamine for their products? Is their any company have been punished by governement? What chinese gov’t do to solve the issue? How many people died with contaminated milk? Is it alarming? Thanks.

  42. Berton, as I explain in the article, the adulteration of milk products with melamine is seeminlgy done to artificially inflate the reported protein content of the product, which is analysed only on the basis of total nitrogen content (melamine is high in nitrogen).

  43. I would like to know why are manufacturers of powdered milk put melemine taints in their products ? What is the reason behind . Is it to preserve the product?

  44. An anonymous visitor to Sciencebase from Canada just asked, is tainted milk dangerous to adults. Well, it depends on what you mean by dangerous. I assume that the contaminants could accumulate with long-term exposure and perhaps crystallize in the kidneys or bladder, but no one has done definitive tests to prove that one way or the other.

  45. well, i some wat agree of sueing the companies which are doing such things…but when money is in the spotlight even the lawyers become liars and the case is never processed. every one wants to earn money any how, so this wats it leads to…destroying each other……

  46. Companies worldwide who are putting melamine or other toxins in food products need to be sued for millions or put out of business. They need to be set as an example that companies putting toxins in foods will not be tolerated. Find some lawyers and sue them. We can’t let these companies poison and kill people. File a group lawsuit.

  47. Just caught the thread, so here goes…
    Liz Curry–Haha hope your joking,Satan doesn’t rule people’s greed and hate, people do.
    Cudjoe–You must not live in China, because any comment like yours would be dealt with violently by their government. Greed comes from America??? Have you EVER traveled abroad Buddy??!!!
    Backgrounds?? How about the Roman Empire, Hitler’s Germany, England’s Africa? Last I checked, we weren’t taking over any countries, simply thwarting those who have previously attacked us (try 6 times during Clinton).
    Anyways, I’ve dropped everything from China. It is so true that US imports WAY too much stuff. Our standards are higher than most, but not by much; here’s human nature again.
    Wanna make a change? Stop buying imported items. Sacrifice a little. Go with organic foods. Call La Leche League. Unfortunately, Chinese government controls it’s people. Believe in GOD? Pray for them. Look around though, the human race won’t last forever. If we don’t kill ourselves off, the earth will. Does it really surprise you when animals and children are being severely abused every day, all around the globe?? When we inject our own cattle/poultry/beef, etc with tons of hormones and antibiotics? True. it’s Greed, but then again, it’s human nature, the life we choose to live, when money becomes everything. For all those concerned, a happy life to you. Live long and Prosper:)

  48. i think not to blame just one country about this, but to every country in the world. Y America, Y China, every country does import and export business…..but the topic is raised on milk and its products….less calcium + more artifical chemicals = ?, probably you know the answer!

  49. I will say damn to you earnest and your colleagues who think everything America is good and everything non-American is bad.Look at your own background and do a quick checkup and you will find that it is not only imported food from China that is killing the babies of today. the root of all greediness comes from America, otherwise how can you be dropping bombs on countries just for their oil.

    Think about it , what will you two-faced America do without depending on other nations like China for every resource.

  50. People have become greedy and they fear the next generation would be in stronger power then them….so kill the grass before it grows….thats what a master mind would have that and infected the milk……we only heard cruelty towards animals, now its cruelty towards infants….

  51. reading thru the thread enlightened me on how and why the milk products got contaminated.. it’s no longer important which chemical is the real culprit.. obviously, there was intentional contamination. and whether they get retribution for their wrongdoing or not.. since it will be a long, tedious run-around case.. all we can do is to avoid EVERYTHING that comes from China.

  52. After reading all of the above comments..I have come to the conclusion that this
    is a world wide terroist extermination plan to fit in with the communistic plan
    for world domination and ethnic cleansing to control world pupulation……
    I say damn them all they all belong to their king…Satan
    E. Curry

  53. Aside from the infuriating aspect of these people poisoning young children, and causing who knows what kind of long-term damage to their bodies, it’s even more maddening that short-sighted individuals can blame the mothers for not giving their childred breast milk (Suzanne). Aside from the fact that many of these children don’t have their biological mothers to depend on, not every woman is able to breast feed. My best friend just gave birth to her first child, and after trying for 5 days to breast feed, found out that none of the women in her family have been able to breast feed. Not just not willing to, but their milk never came in. What should they have done for their babies? Often women don’t know that they can’t breast feed until after they have their child, and they rely on companies that manufacture formula to have their child’s nutrition and health in their priorities. As adults, we do the same with the companies that manufacture any and all of our food and health care products. What would you say to those who got sick from the Tylenol scandal? What if adults were sick from ingesting regular milk? Putting any toxic agent in any ingestible product, whether you think it’s “god given” or not, is unethical.

  54. Hate to say it but we Americans have taught the Chinese manufacuters that second rate products are OKAY, as long as the price is right. Look how many recalls we have gone through in the last several years for lead in toys, poison in dog food and on and on, yet we still have companies that continue to purchase inferior products and pass them off on Americans just to make a buck, then there is the consumer who buys the product to save a buck and then complains because the Government has not put an embargo on these products. The only solution is to quit buying products made in China until the Chinese Government puts strict standards and checks on the products like we in America must follow, but that would cut into the profit of big companies and that is more important than people and their health.

  55. EF, the orphanage aspect is tragic too, but it would be interesting to see how many of those infants taken to hospital were not taken by one or more parent. Even 50,000 seems like a relatively small epidemic of poisoning given the very large number of children in China. One has to wonder how many (perhaps in orphanages) have not been taken to hospital.

  56. Re: Suzanne Sweeney’s comment “breast is best” – true enough, when that’s possible. Keep in mind the article is talking about CHINA, where literally thousands of babies are living in orphanages, where there is no possibility of getting the breast. Those babies have nothing BUT formula (or actual milk) to eat – that’s why this is so tragic to me. Those babies are so vulnerable – not just because they are babies, but because they do not have the advantage getting that one-on-one care (w/ the breast) and are compleletely dependent on the formula. Needless to say I can’t fathom how anyone could taint food for anyone, let alone babies, or dilute baby food and risk malnutrition – it is mind boggling, completely inconcievable! I have a daughter whom we adopted from China 3 years ago. I think she’s fine but I’m going to contact her doctor to have her examined for kidney damage. What a sad, sad shame.

  57. I wouldn’t damn the Chinese people. They are doing whatever they can to feed their families. I wouldn’t execute anyone in charge of food safety in China. They are just doing what they are told to do. Foreign investment in China and the protection of it’s interests is the cause of the current situation in China and the developing theme of our thread. The Beijing 2008 Olympics was heavily invested upon in order for China to host it. Had news of China’s rabies epidemic been known to the global community profit margins could have been adversely affected. Like, would you attend? Would you invest knowing there were rabid dogs running around? Foreign Investors: ” We’ve invested a lot of money here so we think you might want to take a look at your rabies problem. We wouldn’t want to have to reduce or cancel our interests.” As Chinese authorities scrambled to contain the epidemic they began offering citizens a 60cent bounty for each dog carcass. But that was not getting the job done. Most of the time healthy domesticated pets were killed because rabid wild dogs just aren’t that easy to catch are they. The only way to contain the epidemic was to use poison bait distributed primarily among the more heavily affected provinces. The bait was made with abundant, cheap wheat gluten laced with aminopterin. Aminoterin blocks an enzyme necessary for protein synthesis upon which kidney function depends, kills rats too. In a shipping mix up and probably in haste, laced gluten was shipped to Menu Foods which led to many pet deaths in America. A NY lab had analyzed the pet food and found aminopterin. Shortly after melamine was said to be the cause of the deaths added to fake protein levels. Melamine was falsely claimed to be the cause of kidney failure in order to conceal China’s rabies epidemic and to protect the profitability of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Last spring I was doing some research on rabies when I learned China has 80% of human rabies cases worldwide. For years people in China have been breeding dogs and cats so they can export their furs for sale. I guess animals escaped and started breeding on their own which led to millions of animals at large and enabled rabies to proliferate to Human epidemic proportions. Around the same time of my research the poison pet food scandal broke and rat poison was found in an additive that came from China. Since then, I’ve heard nothing except for melamine.

  58. personally, i have already read many stories from many nations who took several “initiatives” to address their respective economic problems. but so far, the worst that has even been done is what the chinese are doing. by way of “improving” the protien content of their products, they intentionally added melamine….

    i think all chinese products should be banned from entering the international markets. better still, we could try to develop a safety mechanism where all chinese products should pass a very strict quality standard before we even think of considering their products.

    damn them…

  59. Thank you all for your comments and speculations. As one who is a lover of milk and dairy products, living in China, you can see my interest in the matter. Continue your quest for answers. Keep this thread running. You can be sure I’ll keep reading. If I stumble upon answers, I’ll help out in the postings.

    @ David – Any other updated articles would be much appreciated.

  60. I too think the melamine is not the culprit. I think it is a co-contminant with the real culprit which has not been identified. If I recall the previous animal case was never confirmed by US regulators to have been caused by melamine.

    I don’t doubt there is a cause that probably comes from an additive, but I doubt it’s melamine for all the reasons given.

    Like others who have posted here, I have worked with melamine like thousands of others in the chemical industry. If there were a human response to low level doses, it would have surfaced long before this

  61. Paul, as I understand it, the Lactoscan does some very clever, but simple, analysis. I assume that it determines protein content of the milk on the basis of how much nitrogen is in the sample, therefore adding melamine bumps up the nitrogen levels of an otherwise protein-deficient milk sample.

    Interestingly, the manufacturer has units specifically for the Iranian and the Indian markets, but doesn’t seem to mention China. I will email the company press office and see if they’d like to comment on this and the nitrogen analysis.

  62. Can we get some info. on the analytical tecnology? What is the Lactoscan? How does the melamine fool the Lactoscan? What additional analysis was used to verify the presence of the melamine?

  63. Thanks for the data Jay

    > Anyone who has mentioned LD50 being low for melamine should understand that acute toxicity > is not at all the same as repeated-dose toxicity. An LD50 is a acute, one-time high dose, followed > by 14 days of observation.

    This is exactly what I was getting at in an earlier post. Acute exposure is irrelevant when compared to chronic low dose exposure.

  64. (discussing animal feed imported from China which was contaminated with melamine)

    Excerpt from the SIDS report:
    4.3 Initial Assessment for Human Health
    Sufficient data on the exposure and the effects are available to perform an initial risk assessment of melamine.
    The lowest No-Observed Effect Level (NOEL) from the different toxicity studies is 63 The NOEL for the carcinogenicity study was higher (ca. 126, a threshold for bladder stones and therefore for tumours at 126 is likely to exist so that the margin of safety for the critical property “carcinogenicity” is even higher by a factor of 2 than that calculated in the next sections from the general toxicity of melamine.

    4.3.1 Occupational risk
    Inhalation and dermal contact of dust are considered to be the main routes of intake of melamine.
    130 UNEP Publications
    The NOEL of 63 is 210 times higher than the estimated overall human exposure (EHE)of 0.3 (see section 4.1.2). A margin of safety (MOS) = NOEL/EHE is calculated:
    MOSworker = 210.
    MOSworker,carcinogenicity = 420.
    Other possible effects, i.e. irritation to the skin and eye, sensitisation, mutagenicity and
    teratogenicity do not present a relevant risk.
    It is concluded that workers are of low risk.

    4.3.2 Consumer risk
    An overall human exposure of 0.01 , see section 4.1.3 was estimated.
    MOSconsumer = 6000.
    MOSconsumer,carcinogenicity = 12000.
    Other possible effects, i.e. irritation to the skin and eye, sensitisation, mutagenicity and
    teratogenicity do not present a relevant risk.
    It is concluded that consumers are of low risk.
    If 2565 ppm (=mg/kg) was found in milk (as entered by eugene on Sept. 20), then a 5% solution (128 ppm) made up to 240 mL, and fed daily to a 7 kg child, still gives exposure of 4. 39 mg/kg-day. This is about tenfold less than the No Observed Effect Concentration of 63 mg/kg-day cited above.

    2565 x 0.05 x 0.24 / 7

    Add this to the fact that circulating levels of anything given to an infant are likely to remain higher because for the first few months, since the excretory system of a baby isn’t efficient, and you have a scenario for repeated-dose toxicity.

    Anyone who has mentioned LD50 being low for melamine should understand that acute toxicity is not at all the same as repeated-dose toxicity. An LD50 is a acute, one-time high dose, followed by 14 days of observation. This is not applicable here. The melamine was administered in repeated doses, and the amount required to cause an effect is lower when there is chronic or subchronic exposure. The LD50 cannot be converted to a value that reflects per diem toxicity. That is why the NOEL for melamine is 63 mg/kg-day, but the LD50 is ca. 3000 mg/kg.

  65. Don’t be naive. Those milk farmers are just scapegoats small potatoes.

    It is a cover up from the top of the government. Complaints all over China have already been made to the company as well as the regulatory watchdog in the previous 6 months. Babies even died well before you see it in news. Only when New Zealand confronted China, the story finally broke.

    Another brand Yili that contains melamine was supposed to be the Olympic sponsor, yet during the Olympic, Yili was rejected due to quality problem, and was replaced by another brand San Yuan (which is the sole supplier for government agencies and the party leaders).

  66. how quickly we have a go at china and forget that places like the US are inundated with long term damaging genetically modified foods from far more evil companies such as monsanto ……….. one should use the exposed schinese incident to look into one’s own backyrads adn realsise that coporations are the same everywhere – greeed is good! Its impossible to imagine a country like where greed is bringing the entire finacial sector to its knees and thus its economy and seriously believe that the food corporations there are somehow immune to similar dastardly practices! What exactly is in a wendy’s burger – it looks like its coated in a melamine sheet!

  67. Thanks for the (spirited) answer, David – it IS your blog, I acknowledge. Skepticism, albeit an opinion in its own right, constitutes a judgment of the FACTuality of representations of FACTS and a handling of information in accordance therewith. Skepticism is not an attitude one needs to EXPRESS (beyond self-descriptive slogans, which are fine) – it is sufficient to PRACTICE it, and the practice of it is pretty much all the real skeptics among us (this includes me) need or want to see.
    Whatever it is, skepticism and moral outrage or even ethical sensitivity, are different things. Perhaps by “skepticism” you mean to include irreverence for authority, including the mainstream media who, contrary to your suggestion, do a much more-than-adequate job of expressing moral outrage for the rest of us. And that’s BEFORE the politicians and would-be enforcers jump in (they’re always last). Well, again, posturing is one thing, and the doing of it is something else – fortunately they aren’t mutually exclusive in any given actor or blogger.
    Your digression on getting at facts invites thought and comment. You mention a secretive autocracy, presumably referring to the Chinese government. And/or their dairy companies, if that’s different (in some cases yes, and in others no, in China, and increasingly in the financial industry of the United States). And you don’t think governments and companies EVERYWHERE are secretive, and eager to restrict what is known and thought about them and their products to favorable opinions? Yes, I know there are VARIATIONS in both secretiveness and autocraticness, but the presence of these tendencies (again, everywhere) is what gives people reason to consult your blog in the first place.
    As for “the only people with the facts,” I’d urge a bit more nuance in this line of thought. There IS no “the facts.” You have facts (and non-facts), and so do I, some of them gleaned (and I do mean gleaned) from your blog. HERE is the fact about “the facts”: NO ONE has (all) “the facts,” and no one ever will. Somebody produces melamine, and sells it to someone else. The producer might not know that the buyer means to put it into milk, but hey – that’s THEIR business, isn’t it? Just because I make melamine doesn’t make me a policeman, now, does it? It’s not FOOD, for God’s sake! Who would put melamine in FOOD, anyway? And WHY?
    Now (another) I put some melamine into milk (actually a mixture of milk and some other source of weight and volume, like water). Well, melamine in small doses isn’t harmful, particularly if these small doses aren’t continual over a long period. So, I’ll just put it in to make sure it meets the protein requirement (boy, that milk is thin – is someone [else] adding water to it?) so the dairy will buy it (and/or so the government will approve it). Who knew anyway that some baby formulas were made with it, and that some babies some places subsisted for long periods almost exclusively on that formula? What kind of diet is THAT?
    And this kind of analysis (of which you can tell I’m especially fond – it’s economic analysis, or analysis of what Ludwig von Mises called “human action”) just goes on and on and on. And as we digress into the science of human action, many people who think of themselves as “real scientists” start protesting that this isn’t “science” anymore.
    It’s at that point that we’ve come full circle. If continual, relentless inquiry (secretive autocracy or no – the AUTOCRATS’ human actions figure into all this crucially, too) into behaviors and motivations isn’t part of science, what, then, are expostulations on the moral enormity of the OUTCOMES, that we (now) think we know (something) about?
    Science. Skepticism, too. And a spirit of inquiry strong enough to withstand the perception of a “secretive autocracy.” Dealing with such things is nothing less than what you “sell.”
    And good luck and success to you in that! May your readership only grow, even as the numbers of those currently suffering from melamine poisoning diminish.

    PS Need I mention that I don’t CONDONE any of the actions (other than bringing milk, melamine, and other good and valuable things to market) I’m discussing? Your comments introduced a contemplation of the moral content of various known and supposed actions, and I’m accepting the invitation to explore them, with rigorous attention to who did what, when, and why. My interest in the matter arises not so much from a desire to punish the guilty, as to reduce the likelihood of future occurrences of this kind.

  68. Dont you’ll realise that all product made from china is so unquality? examples of their product is electronic,car is so unquality.. everytimes there’s must be a complaint on it! its only can be use 2,3 weeks and if your lucky its can be use untill 2,3 month only! after that’s comes the complaint from the buyer! This times their food product can causes DEAD! and then what’s next???? we should banned all products from china import and export to our country!

  69. Well, Joseph, I’m sorry if you’re not happy with the style I employed in this post. I think a food scandal of this kind does deserve an outraged but nevertheless informed voice. Blogs, unlike the cover stories of a newspaper, are not pure reporting they invariably include opinion, think of each post as being like an editorial leader piece, rather than a straight factual write-up from a reporter in the field. That’s a legitimate part of journalism is it not? I don’t see any other science blogs out there simply providing reported facts without opinion. Moreover, if you look at the tagline in the top of my blog I specifically say: “sci-tech news and views with a dose of healthy skepticism”. So, that’s what I try to deliver on a regular basis to the site’s almost 5000 subscribers (RSS, email, Yahoo Group, Odiogo podcast) and the 6000+ individuals who visited yesterday along!

    As to actually getting our hands on the facts…this is a secretive autocracy we are talking about. I don’t think even CNN, the BBC, Bloomberg or anyone else has the facts. The only people with the facts are the perpetrators and the Chinese authorities who both know only too well what has transpired in this scandal.

  70. This is really alarming. These chinese are only concerned with the profit they can make not considering the health and damage they produce.

    This is not the first time they were caught with such terror. They were also linked with high-lead content on toys, expired food products that they still sell, food with papers, and many others.

    We should be alarmed and be cautious on buying them and that goes to the government also. especially in the philippines where politicians take money in return of accepting dangerous products for their people to consume…the chinese people behind this issue should serve what they deserve so other chinese insects will not immitate them anymore…no wonder, their products are cheap.

  71. China has this “quality product” certificate that they handout to certain manufacturers. Basically, it exempts these companies from ANY kind of quality testing, even the occasional random testing by government standards agencies!

    In order to get these certificates the products have to pass a set of quality checks. However, large companies often gets told when the inspectors will arrive to collect samples. The inspectors in turn will get put up in nice hotels and entertained when they arrive to do the inspection.

    Since learning this, I NEVER trusted anything that has this “quality” certificate!

  72. @ Barney
    I agree with you.
    There`s melamine in the formula, melamine in the milk, melamine in the pet food, milk powder, wheat gluten etc. Melamine and cyanuric acid were not the only contaminants that were found. Why is the likelihood of other lethal agents being dismissed especially when there is cause, motive and evidence to warrant considering something other than melamine?

  73. If this is science reporting, why does the author subject us to such hand-wringing about atrocities, infanticide, scandals and so on? For my part, though I’m quite sympathetic to such remarks, I’d just as soon they didn’t clutter science reporting. I’d like to know where the melamine came from (is it purchased as an industrial chemical, or produced by the adulterers?), and what the economics are (how is it that it’s cheaper to add it than it is to just produce protein-rich milk? – ultimately, that is a SCIENCE [chemistry, animal husbandry]) question).

    Moral outrage simply doesn’t belong here. What happened, how, and why (without moralistic expostulations)?

  74. @ Barney

    You really should be perturbed with China for putting a such menacing sounding chemical concoction in the milk (as one example) that actually is a menacing health issue (per health experts & in fact, realty trumps science as far as the FDA guessing games). I for one have a dead cat thanks to this nontoxic substance.:

    “Chinese police have questioned 78 people — including dairy farmers and milk dealers — about the contamination, a Chinese official told Xinhua earlier Saturday. Sanlu would not say whether its own employees are being investigated, Xinhua said.
    Testing by Sanlu found tripolycyanamide, also known as melamine, in 700 tons of its product, the news agency reported.
    Zhao told the news agency that the suspects added water to the milk they sold to Sanlu to make more money, then added the chemical so the diluted milk could still meet standards.
    Health experts say ingesting melamine can lead to kidney stones, urinary tract ulcers, and eye and skin irritation.”

    “The company has acknowledged that some of its milk powder was contaminated by the chemical tripolycyanamide, which can cause kidney stones, the ministry said.

    According to the ministry, the company has ordered the recall of 700 tonnes of the baby milk powder produced before August 6, after internal company investigations showed the formula had been contaminated. “

  75. Although I am perturbed with Offy misnaming melamine as tripolycyanamide just to make it sound more menacing, he posted a very enlightening reference to an analysis of the melamine problem in pigs. see his sept 23 posting. As I stated before, I used to be in the melamine industry. I tried to develop a new product, ammeline, but it was difficult because ammeline can only be manufactured at a 10% ratio to melamine. Looking at that analysis, the ammeline ratio is too high. It is not possible in regular melamine manufacturing. The cyanuric acid was also extremely high. Another indicator that this is not “your father’s” melamine.
    I would strongly suggest that the culprit to all these problems is not melamine, but a chemical waste stream that just so happens to have melamine in it. All the other products are fairly reactive and may not be as easily identified as melamine. This would also explain why they are finding a very expensive chemical, melamine, in a relatively cheap milk formulation.
    As a part of the chemical community, we need to focus on the irresponsible manufacturers of both the chemical waste stream and the companies who accept these products to reduce their costs. Melamine, by itself, is not likely a problem. It’s the other junk that is with it that can not be easily identified.

  76. Sri, the Canadian and the UK food authorities have been assuring their citizens that no melamine has been found in imported milk products, I presume the US authorities are doing the same…

  77. Does anyone know if any of the milk based products e.g. Chocolates, yougurt, ICE Cream, Whey powder, Cheese (including cheese coated nachos, chips, …) that are either sold by US firms or imported into US by walmarts, Kmarts, SAKS, contain milk or milk byproducts that were imported from China and has melamine?

    Because, my grocery shop just lists ingredients and if I call the manufacturer they just say we source the milk products from reliable suppliers (no names or countries).

    And then this Whole Foods kind of world food markets that import cheese etc. from all over the world.

  78. Seems there’s a theory someone was pushing melamine to whoever would buy , the first arrests of two brothers milk collectors admitted they had spiked the milk. Interesting enough when asked what they thought the consequences would be they said they had not thought about giving rise to a theory they may not have known it was a poison, So therefore probably the seller of melamine probably had given these ignorant guys the impression it was ok to use did they even know what exactly it was they were adding to milk destined for young babies. You can’t tell me they would have done this purposely give the consequences to them. The cover up was unforgiveable and Fonterra tried for a month to get the product recalled but were obviously told not to meddle in China’s affairs. We have an Olympics to run

  79. Another thought to ponder about the melamine in milk. It probably wasn’t “just” about the protein levels. It stretched the volume in supply too, didn’t it? Less true milk and higher volume in sales $?

    SanLu lost a chunk of change, about 10million in the 2004 scandal involving them, and I think this could be another case of corporate fear & greed drives motivation to attempt to make up some of the losses.

    Now, if the consumer fear drives motivation to stop the madness.. no matter what county.

  80. @scloh – urea is too expensive in China , some reports are of using urine. there are other ways to create melamine.. see: cyanamide


    This article on animal feed contamination addresses other countries. Sheesh, import/export meats?

    I don’t know if the US industries or our government will ever study the impact on health consequences to humans, cos they sure haven’t done much to protect our pets. Thanks to the animal feed industry and lobbyists in the USA and their AAFCO puppets, the FDA or USDA would never take this position IMO. Case in point, AFSS & FDAAA. Has anybody seen any change and the FDAAA implemented according to the law passed?

    Quote: “On September 15, 2007, at the seminar of the Co-operative Promotion Department for the land animal and aquaculture producers, held in Nakhonpathom province, the faculty members of the Khon-kaen University together with the faculty member of the Kasetsart University revealed cases of melamine intoxication in nursery pigs which caused thousands of dead after some weeks of ingestion a ration composed of parts of imported protein rich feedstuff, mostly from the Chinese origin.”

    “Thousands of nursery pigs died in the months long incidence; whereas the affected survivors were poor doers. Culling was the best action at this point.

    Results from the determination of the remaining imported portion of the only one suspected protein rich feed stuff sample from farm revealed the levels of melamine as high as 3,026 ppm, ammeline 958 ppm, and obviously, the amount of cyanuric acid was as high as 69,031 ppm.

    The Director General of the Department of Livestock Development declared as a strict action, effective from the third of August 2007, a zero tolerance level on any commercial feed, both finish feed and feed stuff, since there is no study on the safety level orally intake by any animal species. The official melamine free certificate issued by the exporter government must be submitted to the veterinary inspector upon arrival of each shipment.” end quote

  81. Adding chemicals to food is not a fresh idea created by Chinese only. The idea of using melamine as fake proteinto was originally from a patent applied in USA in 1959.

  82. curt wrote: I think it takes on a different dimension when factoring in the testimonies of those working with Chinese firms in other fields.

    I have a friend whose husband works in a trading company in Hong Kong. He forbade her a long time ago from giving their three children anything but breastmilk and makes comments about the fools who do business with the company given the ‘special additives’ in the products. One of his colleagues deals in nothing but milk related products from China.

    I live in fear of what I eat since Hong Kong does not produce much of its own food and the Hong Kong government appears to be very keen of ridding Hong Kong of this thing called a farm.

  83. @offy
    Urea is used to make melamine:

    There is reasonable doubt that farmers in China will try to add melamine to their milk before selling it to milk collectors. They are dirt poor. They just do not have the money to attempt that. Would the milk collector do it? Maybe. Everything really points to the milk processors such as Sanlu and gang doing it but of course the Chinese government has plenty of scapegoats so anybody but the culprits are actually whacked or they could be dumb enough to believe the culprits or the culprits have enough power to put up scapegoats.

    One thing is certain though…all this and many other cases like this area all due to greed.

  84. Now someone mentioned yalkult, but in New Zealand I think it comes from Australia.
    So many other ideas that are very interesting here.Urea, or why an expensive additive gets added to a cheap product?Also in New Zealand we have a firm that has isolated A2 as the only healthy untainted milk.Fonterra should switch to this type of herd as well.I have been using A2 as much as possible my self.(I do have some shares in the company).

  85. I am 57 and used to eat instant skim milk powder (bought from COLES) every day for two year,
    at recently, my skin have been sick many times, I can’t confirm that is caused with this milk product, but I check the package bag of instant skim milk powder , it’s product of NEW ZEALAND.
    I have seen Taiwan’s news say” their drug milk imported from NEW ZEALAND , then NEW ZEALAND was importing from China” , I’m afrid it ‘s the problem of this good, as think so, that will hurt Austra’s people health. can you give me some opinions how to do tihis case?

  86. I think it is admirable that most here are focusing on the “Specifics” of this issue, but I fear that it really is the tip of the iceberg. I think it takes on a different dimension when factoring in the testimonies of those working with Chinese firms in other fields. Western companies utilizing the cheap Chinese alternatives generally learn that closer monitoring of quality control is critical. One cannot assume that the rules for compliance are the same as one would expect of a Western firm.

    I would also suggest listening to testimonies of other Asian countries who have traded with China for a much longer period of time. Taiwan perhaps?

  87. The more I read the deeper it gets. All I know is that greed is prevailing and government puppets create never-ending spirals of deceit and confusion until no-one is sure what toxic additives have led to the sad (and painful) deaths of these poor children.

    Your research and on-going debate, David, should be circulated to all places of education – schools, colleges etc so that we, the abused public, can widen the debate and draw our own conclusions away from the government cover-ups.

  88. The standard screening test for liquid milk arriving at processing plants in many developing countries is by using a Lactoscan which can measure up to 9 parameters including fat, protein, lactose, solids not fat (SNF), density, conductivity, added water and freezing point depression ultrasonically. FAO has supplied a number of these to milk collection centres here in Mongolia and our project has been looking at their impact on the milk quality. We found that when screening is first introduced in a milk plant, up to 30 percent of milk supplied may be adulterated with water at levels of 25 percent or more. Within 3-4 months of routine screening and follow-up of positive suppliers, the practice had been effectively eliminated.

    As the water dilutes out milk constituents, it is usual to observe fat and protein content fall from 3.5-4.0 percent to 2.5 percent or less. On several occasions we have observed abnormally high fat levels (6-7 percent) in water-adulterated milk although protein levels will be down. This may be due to the addition of emulsified vegetable oil (or something worse) to try and mask the ‘thinness” of the adulterated milk but not quite getting the dilution rate right. We haven’t seen anomalously protein levels in adulterated milk which might occur if urea/melamine was being added and it should be difficult to fool a lactoscan if it was set to flag milk with fat, protein or lactose levels which fall outside the physiological range.

  89. FYI.. tripolycyanamide is what they said they put in the milk. aka melamine.

    The positive samples came from the Mengniu, Yili and Bright dairies, according to the Xinhua news agency. All of the samples contained trace amounts of tripolycyanamide, also known as melamine.
    Health experts say ingesting melamine can lead to kidney stones, urinary tract ulcers, and eye and skin irritation.

  90. You want the answer to the mystery of why a high priced chemical such as melamine got into milk? I have an answer from someone who supposedly works in a milk collecting operation. He uses the same line of reasoning:

    Milk farmers add melamine? That is crazy, who has money to add such a high priced chemical to their milk to pass their diluted milk as high protein and besides, melamine is not very soluble. You want to know what the Chinese gov or whoever is hiding? They say melamine was added but the truth is, UREA is the actual additive.

    He goes on to say something about the high termperature process of milk production and that it is during the process that urea is sprayed into the milk and that the high termperature causes changes in the urea and it becomes melamine.

    Not sure how correct that is…however…inaccurate details notwithstanding, urea is something that you can turn into melamine. The guy also gave some details about what they do with all the milk that they get from the various farmers. All milk is used…Grade 1 or the best milk is used for yoghurt, grade 2 for pure milk/high-calcium milk products (does it make you feel good?), grade 3 aka poor milk such as sour milk as used to make sour milk products like those for kids (Yakult anyone?), grade 4 aka weird milk with odd smells (like milk that has a smoke smell) are best used for…ice cream, industrial powder…Haagen Daz anyone?

    Who is getting away scot free? Why, the guys who actually add urea to the milk. Sanlu et al. Who got the stick? Yes…the scape goats who scrape a living selling milk for 1.3 reminbi per catty (now 0.8 reminbi per catty)

  91. I agree with you David, this is scary. I hope I am wrong.
    I intended to discuss events leading to the immediate toxic morbidity of the children
    and the pets, not sporadic ” trickle-in ” cases that would from chronic exposure.

  92. Jamez that’s a scary thought, although it still doesn’t get around the fact that melamine is poisonous in chronic exposure regardless of what the MDSD says about acute poisoning dose.

  93. I agree with Barney`s comments about Melamine being relatively harmless. If Melamine caused
    rapid and acute kidney failure this would be indicated as toxicological data on the msds sheet but it does not.
    I believe the baby formula may contain wheat gluten( starch ) that has been laced with Aminopterin.
    The poisoned gluten used in the infant formula was an obvious mistake. The poison being added
    to wheat gluten was deliberate.
    You see, China has a Rabies epidemic( 200 people die from Rabies every month ). In an effort to
    contain the epidemic, I think Aminopterin laced wheat gluten was used, as or in bait to kill off
    stray animals(about 150 million dogs and cats). This was especially prudent as the Beijing Olympics was approaching. The Authorities began using clubs to cull the stray animals but a more efficient and faster method was needed.
    Menu Foods purchased wheat gluten form China last spring which they used in their pet food causing numerous pet deaths from kidney failure. The pet food was analyzed and Aminopterin
    was the initial finding confirmed by New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker and Dr. Donald Smith, Dean of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
    I think by some terrible mishap, the baby formula and the pet food have the same wheat gluten.
    I`m so sorry for the stricken families.

  94. How convenient that Chinese govt did not release the problem to the public after they were notified by Sanlu’s New Zealand’s division before Beijing Olympics? And being one of the culprit companies, Yili happened to be an Olympic sponsor. It’s not the first time the Chinese govt is unethical in cover-ups, like SARS, and intentionally withheld reported cases due to political or other PR reasons. It wasn’t until Hong Kong health officials brought up cases that China admitted to delays in notifying the public finally ! And by then, the effects are far more serious. You’d think one will learn its lesson after pet food, but hey, we’re talking about China here.

  95. From the MSDS, I find melamine is combustible with Flash Point higher than 93.3 C. The substance decomposes on heating or on burning producing toxic and irritating fumes including hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxides, and ammonia. Acute oral toxicity (LD50) to rat is 3161ppm. Would like to hear your comments on the following issues:

    1. If melamine was added to the raw milk by farmers, how could the substance survive through the pasteurization and evaporation processes without decomposition when turning into milk powder from raw milk?

    2. Chinese government reported findings 2565 ppm or 0.25% of melamine in Sanlu’s milk powder. The cost of melamine is high (70 cents/lb?), I don’t see any economic justification for such foolish act because it would only increase apparent protein level by 1.2% (0.25*66/16).

    3. Melamine LD50 for rat is 3161ppm. Would you expect LD50 to be much higher for human because of larger body mass?

    4. Newspaper reported melamine was widely used in China for more than 15 years. I am curious why pet food scare was the only incident reported in 2007.

  96. NPN Induced Gout & Kidney Stones as worthy of mention as the one David used to kill Golliath

    When’s the last time Gout was in the headlines?

    I think it speaks fairly close to the issues and questions regarding “just” melamine and questions regarding long term health consequences to the humans and animals damaged by these mercenaries feeding us & our animals fake protein…. (including the companies that do not test for true protein levels and rely on Nitrogen content to tell us the food is “nutritious”)

    Formaldehyde, ethelyne glycol to make it liquid? Oh please somebody fire the government here and in China who enable the industries to keep poisoning/killing animals & humans.

  97. I am a Chinese. I think all, our Chinese people, should say ” unforgiven” to those companies-the so called ” national enterprise”. How exciting the name is!
    They should feel shame. They are professionals in milk industry, so they know that melamine is devil. In the ads they said that “500g milk a day, Chinese people may become stronger”. But see what they are doing now? They are poisoning our children! How ridiculous it is!
    As common Chinese people, there are not many things we can do for it. But at least, we should never, never buy their products foerver, even if they begin to sell real milk. I memorate a old saying” the evil spreads through the world is because the kindness is too weak.” So we should never forgive them, and I will happy to see that one day their companies will bankrupt, because they killed people, because they should never be forgiven.

  98. David,
    I was not confusing melamine with melamine resin. In fact melamine resin, if not manufactured or handled properly, can release formaldehyde, a confirmed carcinogen. This is why melamine resins are no longer used as a textile stiffening agent in the US.
    Please look again at the melamine MSDS. Yes, it is toxic, but as you pointed out to Rob, it is dose related. You need to eat a lot of melamine to get a toxic response even if you are a baby.
    It is a good fertilzier for tomatoes.

  99. The saying Breast is best goes a long way. At least in breast milk the human body has a system for excreting bad molecules. More to the point people should be ashamed for going for a fast flexible option over natures tried and tested methods.

  100. It is obvious the adulteration is done at the distribution level. Some television channels in India actually exposed milk distributors adding water and chemical fertilizer to thicken the milk before the stuff reached the consumers. It is just greed and total unconcern for human life. It can only be tackled by very strict action by authorities. Both India and China have FDA-like authorities but there is enormous corruption that defeats their functioning.

  101. Rob – toxicity is always about dose per unit body mass. But, there’s also the issue of whether cyanuric acid is being used as well and that melamine and cyanuric combined could be more toxic than either compound separately. Both have been used to spoof protein levels in foods.

  102. This is a tragic case of greed over need. Don’t be too hasty for retribution. How are you going to feel after a handfull of underlings in this mess are rounded up and shot in the back off the head after being paraded with a notice around thier neck in the market square. The bill for the bullet always goes to the family. Does that quell anybodys feelings of retribution. The news of the latter will never reach the western press.

  103. I heard from some news article, I think from Hong kong? that the small trace amounts of melamine in the milk is only harmful to newborn infants, but not adults. I’ve done some research on melamine but they usually talk about exposure to pets. Anyone know if they are actually harmful to adults, and if so, how much dosage is required before the effect is serious?

  104. Dear David Bradley and concerned parents

    Although you may be relieved that the FDA did not find any melamine in milk powder for babies in the US you should be aware that it has not taken action against some very hazardous chemical compounds in baby shampoos and bubble baths, which are also suspected to be carcinogenic! Look out for these compounds: PEG, polyethylene, polyethzlene glycol, polyoxyethylene, -eth, -or, -oxynol, 1,4-dioxane. This information is from Devra Davis’ book “the secret historz of the war on cancer”

  105. All this toxicity with melamine is very confusing. I used to sell melamine and always thought it was harmless. The MSDS and toxicity reports confirm this belief.
    In addition, the cost of melamine crystal is not cheap. There is a shortage of melamine in the world right now. The prices are over 70 cents per pound. Why would someone add a more expensive product to a cheap product like milk?
    The only explanation that I have been able to understand is the melamine is not pure, but contaminated. It is a scrap product that has negative value. Melamine is an effective fertilizer, but there is a possiblity that the contaminant could be deadly to crops.
    Melamine is getting a bad name. I think there is an unscrupulous manufacturer out there that is trying to get rid of its off-spec melamine.

  106. I think that this is dreadful, seeing that this had killed animals last year, not to believe that the same result would occur in humans. None of these practices should be used. Our babies need the best food, not contaminated in anyway. It makes you wonder what is in all our food, and what has been added to make it look better for us, but is slowly killing us. I pray that no more children will die, and whoever is responsible be brought to account.

  107. I feel ashamed as Chinese. It is a disaster to us all.We produce harmful food to kill ourselves.What do we want to do??What are we doing? Are we really crazy just to money??? Who is to blame??Who is to blame??

  108. @David You’re right, that emerged after my post first thing yesterday. That said, I don’t think the companies are without blame given the quality of analytical procedures available in this day and age. And, as to knowing about potential harm, no they probably never realised that a commodity chemical used as a flame retardant would be dangerous to babies ingesting it. But, are these the same people who were adding melamine to exported pet food last year? It’s obviously a well-known problem, why weren’t the manufacturers (which aren’t small-time operators but big corporates) testing their ingredients more thoroughly. They do have the resources.

    @JSC Fair enough

    @Nikki I don’t believe so.

    @George Without wishing to cast aspertions on the Chinese authorities, I suspect that the final outcome for those arrested and convicted of this crime may be far worse than you suggest.

  109. The melamine is not added by the producing companies (San Lu, Mengniu Yili etc), but rather the milk collecting agencies. These guys collect milk form local farmers and pay them on volume, but sell to the dairy companies on protein levels. They artificially inflate the protein levels duping the tests so to get more money, without the milk manufacturing companies knowing. They then add water.

    No defense, but probably they didn’t realize how harmful it would be, it appears that the product was thought relatively unharmful, but obviously very dangerous in infant food (due to kidney failure etc.) The culprits would not have education and be running small collecting centers then selling to the milk processing companies. Several have already been arrested.

  110. As a Biology teacher to expat children in China this is so sad but I am trying to turn it into a great teaching moment. I have even gotten a plug in for Breast is best.

  111. Fooling with our food because of ‘greed’ or whatever should be punished
    severely. Never being allowed to ever have anything to do with the food industry for as long as these people may live. They should be punished as if they killed or tried to kill any human. gk

  112. They don’t care at all if it is harmful or not. This is just another trick to cut cost and make more money, among others that may be more harmful.

  113. This is one of the stupidest things ever. Who in their right mind would think this was a good idea and that no harm would come. Melamine in dog food is bad enough, and apparently they didn’t learn their lesson.

    True, breast milk is superior, but I suspect the majority of this formula is used to feed the thousands of infant girls in China that are abandoned and left in orphanages because they are not boys. One child per family has its drawbacks when girls are considered second rate.

  114. Suzanne, I was going to mention that breast is best, but it’s not always a viable option for all mothers, is it, despite best intentions? Of course, the formula companies have much more powerful marketing departments than advocates of breast milk who have no shareholder money to fund their efforts.

  115. Have to say why do people think that any substitute for mothers’ milk is right for a baby.
    Right time..right temperature..right mix..God given

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