scare over baby milk

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

Alarmed and concerned health officials have launched an urgent probe into baby milk products that might contain an unacceptably high level of the dreaded Melamine.

Melamine is an organic chemical commonly found in the form of white crystals and is rich in nitrogen. It is widely used in plastics, adhesives, counter tops and white boards.

It can cause acute renal failure.

The department of health in KwaZulu-Natal is urgently calling on consumers who are using infant starter formulas with the following batch numbers to stop using them and return them to the shops where they had been bought:

Product: Nido Growing up Milk 1 Year Plus, 900g

Manufacturer: Nestlé SA

Date manufactured: 27/06/08

Batch No: 81790181 SO2E1M

Expiry date: Not available

Product: Lactogen1 Starter Infant Formula with Iron

Manufacturer: Nestlé SA

Date manufactured: 23/07/08

Batch No: 82050179L1

Expiry date: 23/10/2009

The recall comes after the laboratory test results showed that the products contained an unacceptably high level of melamine.

Results of sample tests have been carried out by the Environmental Health Services of the eThekwini Municipality, the Tshwane Metro Municipality and by the forensic Chemical Laboratory of the health department in Cape Town.

KwaZulu-Natal department of health spokesman Leon Mbangwa said though not complying with the level as applied internationally for the presence of melamine, the level of contamination of the products is considered not to pose a serious public health risk if the products are consumed in normal quantities.

Mbangwa said they were currently not aware of any infant or young children that may have consumed the implicated products, that were affected by the contaminated formulas in question.

He said notifications had been sent out to all the province's hospitals and clinics as well as outlets and shops that supply hospitals, clinics and the public.

"We have also asked that the matter be investigated to determine whether the contaminated feed was produced locally or imported, possibly from China. We would like to advise mothers to feed babies breast milk. It is the best feed for babies," Mbangwa said

Symptoms and signs of children affected by melamine-contaminated products include irritability, blood in urine, signs of kidney infection or failure, lethargy, weakness, shortness of breath, general swelling, loss of appetite, fatigue, decreased mental function and high blood pressure.

At least four children have died of kidney failure and 53000 have fallen ill in China after consuming milk or dairy products with melamine.

Earlier this year melamine in Chinese-manufactured dairy products was blamed for many infant deaths and illnesses.

Nestlé spokesman Theo Mxakwe said since the melamine crisis in China in mid-September, Nestlé had been testing all its dairy products.

"Testing led to the discovery of melamine in a number of samples of cattle feed that is predominantly used in winter, which explains the melamine traces in these batches," he said.