Elizabeth Weise reports in the USA Today today that Chinese newspapers are reporting that infant formula has been linked to kidney problems and kidney stones in babies there because the formula contains melamine — the same industrial contaminant that poisoned and killed thousands of U.S. dogs and cats last year.
No baby formula approved for use in the United States is manufactured in China, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"We want to reassure the public that there’s no contamination in the domestic supply of infant formula," says Janice Oliver, deputy of operations for FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
In addition, no U.S. manufacturers or marketers of infant formula receive ingredients from China. "We contacted all of them,’ says Oliver.
"Chinese-manufactured infant formula is illegal in the United States and should not be coming into the United States, and we have controls at the borders to insure that infant formula products don’t come in," says Oliver.
However, the agency is concerned that illegal infant formula may be sold in Asian and ethnic markets. That happened once before in 2004, when fake infant formula from China, which killed dozens of babies in that country, was found in at least one U.S. store.
The FDA is working with state officials to make sure that all Chinese, Asian and ethnic markets are aware of the problem, Oliver says. The agency is also alerting the Chinese community to avoid using China-produced formula.
Reports in the Chinese media from several provinces say that as many as 60 babies have been admitted to hospitals with kidney stones and that the illnesses have been linked to use of a specific brand of powdered infant formula.
Melamine is a by-product of plastic manufacturing. It can be used to mimic high-protein additives such as wheat and rice gluten. Adding melamine to ordinary wheat flour, for example, makes it test as if it is the higher protein, higher cost wheat gluten.