Melamine is one more black mark
on China in the global marketplace
November 17, 2008 | Unless an issue is directly affecting
us or our country sometimes we have a tendency to not
worry or care about it. For one thing other countries'
issues usually don't get put on the news, and some people
think it's their problem and they need to deal with
it. Since it is important that we know what is going
on in the world I wanted to talk about one important
problem that is affecting children in China right now.
This is the issue of melamine.
I didn't know anything about this problem until Halloween.
My wife had received an e-mail that warned her about
letting your kids open certain types of candy that usually
had gold wrappers on it that typically come from dollar
stores. The reason why is because they come from China
and are known to have this melamine product in it, so
the e-mail warning was for our safety. Fortunately we
don't have any kids who go around and get candy so I
didn't take much warning from the e-mail. However, a
few days later I was curious and wanted to see what
this melamine issue was about.
Time magazine reports that China has started
putting melamine into their milk believing it would
act as a protein. Melamine is a compound composed of
nitrogen, carbon, and hydrogen that was created originally
in the 1830s by a German scientist. It had been used
for other purposes, such as a material used to make
plastics and laminates. In 2007, however material containing
this melamine was labeled as wheat gluten or rice protein
and shipped from China to other countries as pet food.
Pets, started to get sick so the Canadian pet food company
and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recalled the pet
food from the market. By the time the pet food had been
recalled many thousands of pets had already died.
The thing that is unfortunate is China didn't stop
there. After they received reports of what this melamine
compound did to animals they decided to sell it in their
milk products. The National Post reported on
Sept. 22 that more than 54,000 children have been affected
by this milk scandal. On Sept. 28 when an American baby
became a victim, another report said the number was
around 60,000, but you can't get an exact amount because
the Chinese government is very confidential and will
never allow anybody to report accurate statistics.
There are quite a few effects that come from melamine,
especially in children. The major immediate symptoms
are kidney stones and renal failure. The more serious
complications are caused when the chemicals crystallize
and then block the tiny tubes in the kidneys. Also,
a new issue was presented in a study that was done with
melamine and formaldehyde that shows if taken for up
to a period of three years, depending upon how much
milk you've ingested, it will cause kidney disease and
cancer in most of the people who are fed the poison
Some critics are very frustrated because they say
China knew about the link between sick babies and melamine-laced
formula well before the Summer Olympics in Beijing but
did nothing to investigate it until external pressure
left them no choice. Now because many countries don't
want to buy their milk products they are considering
doing something about it. The National Post reported
that Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong,
and Taiwan have all decided to ban or recall their milk
products until a change is made and China removes melamine
from their baby formula and milk products. Also, Dutch
dairy group Friesland Foods removed three types of milk
products from their shelves in Hong Kong, Singapore
and Macau as a precaution because they had been receiving
them from China.
When doing research on this topic I discovered the
Food and Drug Administration has sent out a warning
to avoid certain products because of possible melamine
contamination. Some of these products are Koala's March
Crème filled cookies, fresh and crispy Jacobina biscuits,
YILI brand pure milk drink, Blue Cat flavored drinks,
White Rabbit candies, Mr. Brown coffee and tea products,
and Infant formula manufactured in China. These were
just a few that were listed on the FDA's list.
At the current moment the National Post has
reported four deaths have occurred because of this problem.
This may not seem like a large number but the long term
effect is what is still in question. It is said that
unless something is done an entire generation will suffer
cancer to some extent and other serious medical challenges.
China has seen this is affecting their children as
well as the children of other countries. Before this
they knew it was killing people's pets and they didn't
stop it. The question now is: Are they going to stop
using it or worry about saving a little bit of money
in their milk products and baby formula?
Unfortunately, it appears that China doesn't seem
to have the same regulations that most countries do
when it comes to a product damaging people's health.
Usually if the U.S. is caught with a product hurting
their people, the FDA steps in and stops its production.
However, it seems that China is going to be forced to
stop because people aren't buying their milk products
As the National Post says, "This has again
shaken trust in China's products after last year's scare
over toxic and shoddy goods from toothpaste and drugs
to pet food and toys." Let's hope they will react fast
and remove melamine from their milk to prove they are
concerned about the children and their future health.
Then we can all have confidence in buying milk products
from China again knowing our children will be safe.