Melamine: It’s not just for breakfast anymore

I’m not a chemist, but when I heard that Chinese milk was tainted with melamine, I realized I was familiar with that chemical. You see, a couple years ago I installed a new shelf in a closet. The shelf had an unfinished edge so I bought some melamine edging to make it look nice. The melamine is milky white. As my brother pointed out, that’s the typical melamine color.

The actions in China are shocking: people intentionally putting toxic materials in a product that they know will be ingested by vulnerable people. The motive: purely economic. It’s really the same thing that happened with Heparin, where someone decided to insert a cheap, dangerous chemical even though it would mean death further down the line.

When blue chip Western companies work with new suppliers in new markets they usually take care to qualify their suppliers and secure their supply chains. They are on the lookout for links in the chain that are unreliable or of low quality. They’re even on the prowl for swindlers.

But what they’re not expecting and are not prepared for is suppliers who don’t care if they kill the end user.

It’s a problem for regulators, too. FDA is just not set up to handle these kinds of issues. It’s more suited to the FBI.

September 22, 2008

6 thoughts on “Melamine: It’s not just for breakfast anymore”

  1. I have been working in China Beijing for 7 years on and off in the health and medical industry. I found that the local people are so poor they don’t have the right to make the right choices or I could say “quality” seemed too far away from their lives.

  2. What I find crazy is that it was just in March that they executed the guy who was the head of State Food and Drug Administration, Zheng Xiaoyu for the same thing. How in the world did they think it wouldn’t be extremely harmful to people. The whole thing is hugely immoral and obviously totally stupid business sense

  3. There are two “melamines”. There is melamine polymer resin, which is manufactured from melamine monomer and formaldehyde. It is the monomer that is at the centre of the current controversy not the plastic coating material. More to the point, there is also controversy as to what actually has been added to milk and whether it is melamine that is the cause of the toxicity problems or some impurity.

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