July 17, 2018

Study Finds Melamine Exposure in Tableware

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine this month has found that melamine exposure is common, even after the 2008 melamine-tained milk and baby formula incident in China. That crisis resulted in 6 deaths and 50,000 hospitalizations. Unfortunately, melamine table ware can be a source of this chemical in the diet.

Scientists at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan studied health volunteers to consume hot noodle soup (initial temperature of 90 degrees C) served in melamine bowls. They then collected urine samples to calculate melamine. They found that those who ate the soup served in melamine bowls had 8.35 micrograms of melamine in their urine, compared to 1.31 micrograms in the control group.

High levels of melamine combines with cyanuric acid in the body to form crystals that can damage the urinary tract and kidneys. Low doses of melamine can increase the risk of developing kidney stones. Infants can be seriously sickened by the chemical because any melamine they consume is higher per unit of body weight than older children and adults. The U.S. does not allow melamine to be used as a food ingredient.

Symptoms of melamine intake can include stomach pain, vomiting, fever, irritability, blood, crystals, or particles in the urine, painful urination, and swelling of the hands, feet, or face. Scientists don’t know how long melamine stays in the body. Excretion may be fairly rapid. In the study cited, melamine concentrations in the urine decreased sharply for two hours following soup intake.

Melamine bowls are available for sale throughout the U.S. Consumers should not serve hot foods in these products. Instead, use glass or ceramic containers to hold hot foods such as soup and hot cereals.

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