There have been many cases of food coming from other countries, being contaminated, causing significant health issues, and then we never really hear about it again. I have been asked recently a lot about the contaminated powdered milk and baby formula from a few years ago, if other foods had melamine in them, and what the big deal is? I think this Melanine issue in foods from China merely highlighted the fact that we need to really take a good look at where our food comes from and the standards that we have in the US, UK, and EU are not shared worldwide.
What was the big controversy?
In 2007 and 2008, a factory in China that was producing formula, tried to undercut the competition, by cutting their milk production costs by using raw milk (non-pasteurized) and then cutting it with water to increase the volume. In order to make the milk products have that have the appropriate amount of protein, they needed to add something. Protein levels are usually checked through the levels of nitrogens present. What they decided to add is Melanine. Melanine is and organic powdered chemical that is very high in nitrogens, and it is frequently found in adhesives, plastics, countertops, etc. It is NOT a form of food, and it has no nutritional value. Melanine was found in wheat gluten, rice proteins, frozen yogurt, some coffee drinks (with Milk products), and various pet foods that came from China. It is actually detrimental to our health, and this is not an approved additional supplement/practice by any of the organizations worldwide that regulate food.
What are the side effects of Melanine?
Most of all the information that we have regarding the effects of Melanine are from animal studies, as it is nowhere deemed safe for human consumption, so it has never been studied. When the pet food contaminated with Melanine were hitting the shelves in the US, large numbers of animals died, shortly after ingesting the foods. Melanine can cause irritability, blood in the urine, high blood pressure, and renal (kidney) failure. It is assumed, based upon animals, that the Melanine crystallizes with other byproducts in the body, and can clog up the kidney tubules causing kidney stones and lead to total blockage of urine passing, leading to renal failure.
What does this mean?
Well, since the issue in 2007 and 2008, the use of Melanine has become much more scrutinized, and foods from China are now being tested for it, so we are pretty certain foods do not have it. But the whole issue made me really question foods processed outside the US. I clearly try to live a clean lifestyle, I eat organically and minimally processed (as much as possible), and I like to think it works for me, and I realize it is not possible for everyone. But I really want you all to think about where your food comes from, where it is processed. I loved that when I lived in the UK, the food source was well labelled on the package; I knew exactly where my veg came from, my fruits, etc. if they were grown and packaged outside the UK. Think about buying fruits and veg at local food sources, like local farms, farm stands, farmers markets, or other stores that sell locally sourced organic foods. Join a Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) group, and support local farmers all while ensuring you are eating fresh, organic, unprocessed foods. It is a piece of mind for me, knowing that my food does not have anything, like Melanine, added to it that could kill me, my family, or my pets.
Food for thought!
Yours in Good Health