Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Let's look at this again, shall we?

I was watching the local news tonight, and they had a segment on kidney stones in children. From Johns Hopkins Medical:
Kidney stones in children-considered all but a medical aberration until recently-are now becoming a fairly common condition. It’s a growing and disturbing trend that has pediatricians at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and around the country, sounding the alarm.

While doctors have yet to quantify the precise increase and tease out the factors behind it-better detection devices probably play some role-pediatricians agree that too much salt and too little drinking water in children’s diets are probably the main culprits.

“More and more children with kidney stones are coming to us,” says kidney specialist Alicia Neu, M.D., co-director of the kidney stone clinic at the Children’s Center. “While this is somewhat unexpected, it is not totally surprising given that so many other conditions are on the rise in children due to poor diet, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity to name a few.”

You see, in the US, it's always your fault. Your children should be on a lettuce and water diet and move constantly 12 hours a day, and if not, any illness they encounter is your fault.

Now the segment started by highlighting this problem. From Wikipedia:

The 2008 Chinese milk scandal is a food safety incident in mainland People's Republic of China involving milk and infant formula, and other food materials and components, which had been adulterated with melamine. With mainland China's wide range of export food products, the scandal has affected countries on all continents. By the end of September, an estimated 94,000 victims have been claimed;[1] four infants have died from kidney stones and other kidney damage.[2][3] The chemical appeared to have been added to milk in order to cause it to appear to have a higher protein content. The same chemical was also involved in a series of pet food recalls in 2007. In a separate incident, watered-down milk resulted in 13 infant deaths from malnutrition in mainland China in 2004.[4]

Let me pull a sentence out of that:

By the end of September, an estimated 94,000 victims have been claimed;[1] four infants have died from kidney stones and other kidney damage.[2][3]

So when children get kidney stones here, it's all because we're idiots who don't read or listen to the news or to our doctors. All of a sudden our children are eating massive amounts of salty foods, just over the past few years, even though they have been beating us over the head with the idea that our kids eat too much junk and are blowing up like balloons. Parents are all clearly dumb f*cks who just don't listen

But when it happens in Asia, it's the result of contaminated food products.

Again, from Wikipedia:

Chinese protein export contamination was first identified after the wide recall of many brands of cat and dog food starting in March 2007 (the 2007 pet food recalls), and eventually involved the human food supply. The recalls in North America, Europe and South Africa came in response to reports of kidney failure in pets. Initially the recalls were associated with the consumption of mostly wet pet foods made with wheat gluten from a single Chinese company. In the following weeks, several other companies who received the contaminated wheat gluten also voluntarily recalled dozens of pet food brands. One month after the initial recall, contaminated rice protein from a different source in China was also identified as being associated with kidney failure in pets in the United States, while contaminated corn gluten was associated with kidney failure with pets in South Africa.

The Chinese government was initially slow to respond. Both government officials and manufacturers went so far as to deny that vegetable protein was even exported from China and refused for weeks to allow foreign food safety investigators to enter the country.[1][2] Ultimately, the Chinese government acknowledged that contamination had occurred and arrested the managers of two protein manufacturers identified so far and took other measures to improve food safety and product quality.[3]

The first and most easily identified contaminant in the vegetable protein is melamine. However, melamine is not considered to be especially dangerous to animals or humans, and so investigators have continued to examine the role of other contaminants found to be present in the proteins, including cyanuric acid. Current research has focused on the combination of melamine and cyanuric acid in causing renal failure. Reports that cyanuric acid may be an independently and potentially widely-used adulterant in China have heightened concerns for both pet and human health.[4]

If it's not harmful to humans, why were those babies getting sick? Turns out it is harmful to one type of human, babies and young children.

The US FDA said that while in general, food containing melamine below 2.5 parts per million did not raise concerns, its scientists were "currently unable to establish any level of melamine and melamine-related compounds in infant formula that does not raise public health concerns."[203]

On October 3, 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that up to 2.5 parts per million of melamine was safe for adults, but declined to set a standard for children. The FDA also implied it would not permit the sale of food deliberately adulterated (rather than accidentally contaminated) with melamine.[33] Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, Chairwoman of the House subcommitee which oversees the Food and Drug Administration subcommittee, said anything less than zero tolerance would not protect consumers.[34] DeLauro criticised the FDA's "acceptable level for melamine in food" was an insult to consumers, and would give the impression that the FDA was condoning intentional contamination.[35]

Note the date on that. Not quite a month ago.

And now the problems have been growing

The search widened when some manufacturers reported not using Chinese milk. The Sri Lankan manufacturer of Munchee Lemon Puff biscuits tested positive in Switzerland categorically stated that its milk powder or milk products were sourced only from Australia, Holland and Canada;[171] similarly, Pokka products without milk or its derivatives from China were found by Vietnamese authorities to be contaminated.[198]

Baking powder

Malaysian authorities determined that ammonium bicarbonate, not milk, imported from China was the source of contamination at Khong Guan and Khian Guan.[141] On 19 October, 2008 Taiwanese authorities detected melamine in 469 tons of baking ammonia imported from China. Samples tested showed up to 2,470ppm of melamine.[199] The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore has ordered importers and retailers to withdraw all Malaysia-made Julie's brand of biscuits taken off their shelves. This was after AVA detected the industrial chemical melamine in 12 Julie's biscuit products imported from Malaysia.

Chicken and eggs

Japanese and South Korean authorities' tests on imported egg powder from China found melamine contamination. Japan found melamine in frozen fried chicken imported from China.[200] The South Korean supplies were traced to two companies in Dalian.[201]. On 26 October, Hong Kong authorities discovered 4.7ppm melamine in eggs produced in Dalian.[29] Hong Kong Secretary for Food and Health, York Chow, suspected the melamine came from feed given to the chickens that laid the eggs.[202][29] On 29 October Hong Kong authorities announced that tests done on eggs imported from Jingshan Pengchang Agricultural Product Co. of China's central Hubei province found an excessive amount of melamine. The melamine concentration for the Jinshan eggs contained melamine of 2.9 parts per million.

On 28 October, 2008 Wal-Mart stores in China also began removing Kekeda brand eggs, produced by Hanwei Group. On 29 October, 2008 the Taiwanese Department of Health said that protein powder imported from China was found to contain 1.90 parts per million (ppm) to 5.03ppm of melamine. This is announced after randomly testing 13 batches of protein powder, six of which were contaminated with melamine. The companies that produced the powder were Jilin Jinyi Egg Products Co Ltd and Dalian Green Snow Egg Product Co, Ltd.

In October 2008, "Select Fresh Brown Eggs" imported to Hong Kong from the Hanwei Group in Dalian in northeastern China, were found to be contaminated with nearly twice the legal limit of melamine. York Chow, the health secretary of Hong Kong, said he thought animal feeds might be the source of the contamination and announced that the Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety would henceforward be testing all mainland Chinese pork, farmed fish, animal feed, chicken meat, eggs, and offal products for melamine. [55]

Yes, the melamine got into fresh chicken and fresh eggs via contaminated chicken feed. It looks to me like it concentrates up the food chain. They also found it in baking powder. Both of those were found this month.

So, what are we supposed to do, especially if you're like me, trying for a pregnancy in the coming months and wanting to do what's best for your children?

Breastfeed. Then spend a lot more on groceries.

Buy fresh local, for one thing. It doesn't have to be organic, I called Umpqua, our regional dairy and asked them about glutens in their products. All the stuff they use is produced in the US, period. And preferably in Oregon. When you can't buy local buy organic, most of those farmers are smaller, and will answer questions if you call. Produce your own baked goods, breads, cookies, crackers from wheat products you know to be grown and processed in the US. For everything else, follow a gluten free diet. It's a pain, no doubt about it, but people with celiac disease follow it all the time, and they manage. I'll have a couple of links on what to look out for at the end.

Oh yea, isn't the government doing anything about this?
In October 2008, the U.S. FDA issued new methods for the analysis of melamine and cyanuric acid in infant formulations in the Laboratory Information Bulletin No 4421 [56]. Similar recommendations have been issued by other authorities, like the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare [57], both based on LC MS/MS detection after HILIC separation [58]
Funny how that timing works. Note, that just says infant formulas.

Just remember, if you don't have celiac disease, or any other medical reason for avoiding gluten in particular, you can eat wheat and baked good. What you need to do for your children is keep them away from gluten manufactured in China, since melamine contamination appears to be more common than the government or the media is letting on.. Since there's no way to tell from reading labels if the gluten in processed foods came from China, all you can do is avoid it all together.

I don't know what to do about baking powder. But that's a minimal thing in any diet.

Just remember, even if a food product is assembled in the US, it's components may have come from China.

They keep saying parents aren't feeding their children responsibly, well, maybe it's time we did.

Wikipedia links referenced: