Toxic Melamine Released From Bowls Serving Hot Soup, Study Finds

Melamine, the chemical that killed infants in a milk-formula scandal in China in 2008, may be ingested when it’s used to serve hot food, a study found.

The toxic chemical is released from melamine-containing tableware when exposed to boiling-hot substances, researchers at the Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan showed. Their study, involving a dozen healthy adult volunteers, detected traces of melamine in urine following consumption of noodle soup consumed from non-breakable melamine bowls.

The finding, in a research letter published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, suggests a mechanism for regular exposure to the organic chemical, widely used in plastics, adhesives, countertops, dishware and whiteboards. Consumption of melamine-contaminated dairy products in China gave people kidney stones that resulted in at least six deaths and sickened more than 300,000 babies.

“Although the clinical significance of what levels of urinary melamine concentration has not yet been established, the consequences of long-term melamine exposure still should be of concern,” Chia-Fang Wu and colleagues said in the letter.

Their research analyzed urine samples collected from the volunteers within 12 hours of the consumption of noodle soup served in either melamine or ceramic bowls. Melamine excretion totaled 8.35 micrograms in those whose soup was served in melamine bowls, compared with 1.31 micrograms in the control group.

China pledged to improve consumer protection after melamine powdered-milk scandal in 2008. Shanghai’s government announced last month it is considering harsher punishments for companies that violate food safety rules.

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