Emergencies preparedness, response

Melamine-contaminated powdered infant formula in China

Over 6240 cases of kidney stones in infants with three deaths have been reported from across China as of 17 September. Kidney stones in infants are very rare.

The Ministry of Health of China has confirmed that these cases are related to melamine-contaminated powdered infant formula consumed by the infants. While the exact onset date of illness resulting from contamination is unknown, a manufacturer received a complaint of illness in March 2008.

Following inspections conducted by China’s national inspection agency, at least 22 dairy manufacturers across the country were found to have melamine in some of their products (levels varied between 0.09mg/kg and 2.560 mg/kg). Two companies exported their products to Bangladesh, Burundi, Myanmar, Gabon and Yemen. While contamination in those exported products remains unconfirmed, a recall has been ordered from China.

A recall is also ongoing for all contaminated products in China.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is in close communication with the Ministry of Health of China to monitor the situation. WHO has also been disseminating information on the situation to WHO Member States through the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN). INFOSAN has also specifically alerted the five countries importing potentially contaminated products from China.

WHO recommends breastfeeding as the ideal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to six months of age.

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