New Technology Detects Melamine in Milk

US - A new analysis method can detect the kidney-damaging chemical melamine, used to contaminate infant formula in China last September, at very low levels within a matter of seconds.
calendar icon 26 January 2009
clock icon 1 minute read

A research team at Purdue University created the analysis method to detect levels of melamine in the low parts-per-billion in milk and milk powder in about 25 seconds.

An estimated 50,000 Chinese children were sickened and several died after drinking the melamine-contaminated formula. Melamine, which is used in plastics, was deliberately added to the formula to artificially bump up apparent protein levels.

The chemical also was found in the contaminated pet food produced in China responsible for the deaths of a reported 8,500 dogs and cats in the United States in March 2007.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new guidelines in November limiting melamine in dairy products to 1 part-per-million or less.

"This situation created an immediate need for an analytical method that is highly sensitive, fast, accurate and easy to use," said R. Graham Cooks, Purdue's Henry B. Hass distinguished professor of chemistry, who led the team that developed the analysis method. "We took it as a challenge to use simpler instrumentation and to develop a faster method that allows the testing to be done on site and does not require pretreatment of samples."

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