Melamine (Chinese milk additive) 101

In today’s post we feature a picture parade that tells the story of melamine contamination in milk products, what it is, what it’s for, how it works and some hints on how to recognize and avoid contaminated foods.

Chinese mother feed their babies -- Telegraph photo

Chinese mothers feed their babies -- Telegraph photo

Adulteration of milk has historically not been limited to China. In North America, in the early decades of the last century, substances such as chalk were added to milk from large dairy farms that tried to cut their costs by feeding their cows distillery swill (leftovers from the distillation process) instead of hay and pasture. With it’s fairly recent shift to industrialization, China may well be going through a similar sort of birthing pains as were once felt here in Canada and the United States. But while we used chalk, they’re using melamine. But the purpose was the same — to make the milk seem more nutritious than it really is.

Ultimately, the lesson of the melamine scandal is: Know where your food is coming from. Cultivate personal relationships with local growers, because the corporate food chain just can’t be counted on to look out for the health of consumers. Beyond melamine there’s the whole issue of GMOs just lurking under the level of public awareness. How long will it take before GMO contamination becomes the next “melamine scare”?

Thanks to farmer Michael Schmidt for passing the following information and pictures along to the Bovine, which he received in the form of an email. We’ve edited some of it for style and content.

1. What really is this poisoned milk that’s causing all the fuss? It is the milk or milk powder mixed with powdered melamine.

melamine powder

melamine powder

What is Melamine used for otherwise?

It is an industrial chemical used in the production of dishes such as “melmac”.

melawares

melmac dishes

It is also used for surfacing interior cabinetry boards like those shown below:

Melamine-coated particle board is a popular kitchen cabinet material

Melamine-coated particle board is a popular kitchen cabinet material

Cabinets made of melamine coated boards like those shown above

Cabinets made of melamine coated boards like those shown above

Melamine is used in industrial production – it has no nutritional value and is in no way a food!!!

2. Why is Melamine added in milk powder?
The most important nutrient in milk is protein. And melamine shows up as protein in the primitive “scientific” tests that are commonly used to determine protein content in milk because it contains “NITROGEN”; the tests are really for nitrogen content.

Chemical formula for melamine

Chemical formula for melamine

Adding melamine to milk enables the supplier to “water down” the milk while keeping the nitrogen content the same.  Melamine powder is cheaper then milk so adding it and watering down the milk lowers costs to the producer — but at an enormous “cost” to the end consumer.

Below is some melamine powder; it doesn’t it look like milk. It also doesn’t have any smell, so it cannot be detected except by lab analysis.

melamine

melamine

melamine powder

melamine powder

3.  When was it discovered that melamine was being used as a food additive?
In 2007, many cats and dogs died suddenly in America.  Tests showed that pet food from China contained melamine.

Sick as a dog with melamine poisoning

Sick as a dog with melamine poisoning

From early 2008, China reported an abnormal increase in infant cases of kidney stones.

Chinese babies were next victims of melamine poisoning

Chinese babies were next victims of melamine poisoning

In August 2008, China Sanlu Milk Powder tested positive for melamine.

contaminated milk powder

contaminated milk powder

In Sept. 2008, the New Zealand government informed the authorities in China and asked them to investigate this problem. In Sept 21, 2008, many food products in Taiwan also tested positive for melamine.

4. What happens when melamine is digested?
Melamine remains inside the kidney. It forms into stones blocking the tubes. Pain will be evident and an infected person may not be able to urinate. The kidneys will then swell.

kidney stones from melamine

kidney stones from melamine

Although surgery can remove the stones, 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? Dialysis is a process of artificially purifying the blood, sort of like the kidneys are supposed to do, but with a machine. The process of dialysis involves filtering all of the body’s blood through a machine and then channeled it back to the body.

Dialysis machine to replace kidney function

Dialysis machine to replace kidney function

The whole process takes 4 hours and a person with impaired kidney function will need to undergo dialysis once every 3 days for the rest of their life.

This is a dialysis center

Kidney dialysis centre

Kidney dialysis centre

This is a larger dialysis center

many patients in this centre

many patients in this centre

A small hole needs to be cut in the skin of the arm to insert the dialysis catheter subcutaneously.

hole to insert catheter for dialysis

hole to insert catheter for dialysis

Why is it more serious in babies? Because the kidneys are very small and they drink a lot of milk powder.

Here is a baby undergoing dialysis.

Baby undergoing dialysis

Baby undergoing dialysis

China currently has 13,000 infants hospitalized because of melamine in milk.

One of 13,000

One of 13,000

There is no generally-recognized “safe level” of melamine for human consumption!

5.  What are the foods to be avoided?

Foods that contain dairy products should be avoided.

Some foods to avoid

Some foods to avoid

Remember: Foods with creamer or milk should be avoided.

6.  Which companies are affected?
Here under are some of the companies whose products have been affected by melamine.

Companies whose products have been affected

Companies whose products have been 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 in 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.

Learn More:

Here’s a CNN report on melamine in candy.

Read Mercola’s insightful article on melamine in food

China’s milk of human cruelty — theage.com.au

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