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Happy Thanksgiving! Remember the industrial chemical melamine that was found in Chinese infant formula after it had killed several Chinese babies and sickened thousands of others? At the time, the FDA said that infant formula manufactured in the US did not contain melamine, and so we didn’t have to stop buying it or feeding it to our babies. It turns out that not only did the FDA find melamine—as well as cyanuric acid, a related chemical—in some of our infant formula, but it decided not to tell the public right away. (Thanks to the Associated Press for ferreting out the info with the Freedom of Information Act.)

What we learned from the Chinese infant formula debacle is that the chemical melamine (used by Chinese manufacturers to artificially boost the protein content of the formula so it looks like the milk in it hasn’t been watered down) can cause kidney and bladder blockages when ingested, leading in the worst cases to kidney failure and even death. The combination of melamine and cyanuric acid can cause yellow crystals to form in the bladder and kidneys, severely damaging them to the point of destroying renal function.

So far, the products containing melamine and/or cyanuric acid have been identified as Nestle’s Good Start Supreme Infant Formula With Iron, and Mead Johnson’s Enfamil Lipil With Iron infant formula.

Parents, should you stop giving these products to your babies? When this melamine problem first came to light, the FDA informed us that no level of melamine could be determined to be safe. Now that industrial chemicals are being found in US products, the FDA is saying that trace amounts are nothing to worry about, and that parents should go on giving these products to their children.

Because the melamine problem has only been with us for a few months, scientists have yet to identify the long-term effects of melamine exposure on a baby’s vulnerable kidneys. The numbers concerning “safe” levels of melamine in baby food are just not available. In summarily deciding that the level of melamine in Nestle and Mead Johnson formula is safe for infant consumption, it seems that the FDA is being flippant and irresponsible.

Parents, please stop feeding your children these products, and schedule a visit to your pediatrician if you’re worried about your baby’s exposure to melamine and cyanuric acid.

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