It's great to see the back of 2008, but some of the year's nastier aspects keep lingering: On Monday the USDA announced that Topaz Wafer Rolls containing unhealthy levels of melamine were being recalled from store shelves. No one has gotten sick, which is some relief. But who can forget that last year's infant formula contamination in China inflicted kidney and urinary problems upon 294,000 young children? And as for infant formula sold in the US, melamine has been found in some products, though not at levels that pose a health threat, according to the FDA.
The chemical, which is used in plastic and fertilizer, can cause kidney and bladder stones in children. So why does it keep cropping up in kids' foods? Since melamine can mimic the appearance of protein, unscrupulous milk producers in China watered their milk down to inflate production levels then added the chemical to raise its apparent protein count. Ingredients derived from this milk have made their way around the world to be used in cream fillings, cocoas, milk powders and other products aimed at children (the FDA provides a full list of products found to contain melamine here).
U.S. kids already get more kidney stones than they should, owing in part to the amount of salt they eat. Let's spare them the melamine.