Some U.S. formula makers say products melamine-free

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several makers of infant formula sold in the United States defended their products on Wednesday, saying tests had not found the kidney-damaging chemical melamine in their products.

Taiwan Department of Health officials pack a milk powder sample to test for melamine contamination in Taipei September 22, 2008. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday it had found trace amounts of the industrial chemical in one sample of formula. Although the FDA said the low level posed no risk, reports of the finding caused alarm among parents.

“The FDA has confirmed with Mead Johnson that melamine was not found in any of our products they tested,” said Pete Paradossi, spokesman for the Bristol-Myers Squibb unit, which markets several types of Enfamil-branded formula.

Other companies had no comment on the FDA’s findings but said their own tests did not detect the chemical.

Hain Celestial Group Inc said its tests found no melamine or a related by-product, cyanuric acid, in its Earth’s Best Organic formula.

Privately held PBM Nutritionals, which makes store-brand formula, said the FDA had not told the company of any finding of melamine in its formula products. “Our tests have not detected melamine,” PBM spokesman Joe Shields said.

Other U.S.-approved makers of milk-based baby formula include Abbott Nutrition and Nestle USA. Neither company returned e-mails and phone calls seeking comment. Another maker, Solus Products, could not be reached.

On Tuesday, the FDA said it began using a more sensitive testing process to detect melamine after the chemical was found widely in formula in China. Thousands of Chinese children were sickened and several died.

Food products made in China have come under fire in recent years for containing melamine, a chemical used in plastics and fertilizer that can make products appear to contain higher levels of protein and thus boost their value. Melamine can cause life-threatening kidney failure.

FDA spokeswoman Judy Leon said on Tuesday the melamine finding in one sample of U.S. formula was not from direct contamination but likely resulted from the manufacturing process or product packaging. She declined to tell Reuters which brand contained the chemical.

Other media outlets reported melamine or cyanuric acid had been found in one Mead Johnson product and one Nestle product.

“We have received thousands of calls from moms asking for clarification and information,” Mead Johnson’s Paradossi said.

Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro said independent science must verify there is no risk for infants. “The FDA should work with industry immediately on an action plan that eliminates melamine from the manufacturing process. This must happen in days not weeks,” she said.

Consumer groups urged companies and the FDA to make their formula findings public.

“FDA needs to do much more to protect our families, and they should start by being honest with the American public,” National Research Center for Women & Families President Diana Zuckerman said.

The FDA did not respond to calls or e-mails seeking comment.

Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney