WE may have a melamine problem too! – In the November 17 edition of the New York Times, James E. McWilliams reports that “?Melamine is?integral to the material life of any industrialized society. It’s a common ingredient in cleaning products, waterproof plywood, plastic compounds, cement, ink and fire-retardant paint. Chemical plants throughout the United States produce millions of pounds of melamine a year. Given the pervasiveness of melamine, it’s always possible that trace elements will end up in food.”

China deliberately added melamine to food products to increase their profits, since it?s inexpensive and tests as a protein. The FDA’s limit for melamine in food is 2.5 parts per million for a person weighing around 130 pounds, meaning that a tiny amount that accidentally gets into food won’t cause any harm to adults, but it COULD be a problem for babies. Also, as McWilliams points out, “?While adults eat about one-fortieth of their weight every day, toddlers consume closer to one-tenth,” meaning that they would also ingest more melamine.

Melamine is commonly added to the fertilizer used on farm fields, because it?s so effective, and the government doesn’t regulate how much they add or have any way of knowing how much melamine ends up in the soil, where plants can suck it up through their roots. But the REAL problem is the meat and eggs we eat: since chickens and livestock the graze or eat contaminated feed, that’s our most likely way of getting it.

McWilliams reports that “Chinese eggs seized last month in Hong Kong?contained elevated levels of melamine because of the melamine-laden wheat gluten used in the feed for the chickens that produced the eggs.” But this isn’t just a Chinese problem: According to McWilliams, “Last year?the FDA reported that millions of Americans had eaten chicken fattened on feed with melamine-tainted gluten imported from China. Around the same time, Tyson Foods [the biggest US producer of chickens] slaughtered and processed hogs that had eaten melamine-contaminated feed. The government decided not to recall the meat.”

What can we do besides eating organic? Most of us have realized by now that we need some banking regulation, but McWilliams thinks we also need some FERTILIZER regulation. He writes, “The United States should seize upon the melamine scandal as an opportunity to pass federal fertilizer standards backed by consistent testing for this compound, which could very well be hidden in plain sight.”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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