By Carolina S. Ruiz Austria

The word "Heresy"

was used by Irenaeus in Contra Haereses to discredit his opponents in the early Christian Church. It has no purely objective meaning without an authoritative system of dogma.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Milking the Issue: The Market Wars

As I write this post, the Philippine Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) has not yet posted any results of its product tests on milk (and other food products) suspected of contaning melamine. But it has, however, withdrawn four milk brands from testing.

Melamine, a synthetic polymer is primarily used as a flame retardant and resin for furniture, tiles, fabrics and plastics. It is highly toxic and even if it is supposed to raise the "protein" content of milk (and other food products) during testing, it is not water soluble and has to be mixed with formaldehyde or another organic solvent before it can be dissolved in milk. For this reason, experts have raised doubts about the possibility of the melamine being added to the milk by farmers.

What seems more likely though is that the melamine is in the feed (corn glutten, cottonseed meal) that farmers use to raise their cows with. Last year's massive petfood recall (mainly in North America) was also linked to melamine contamination. Majority of the recalled foods came from a single source, Menu Foods of Streetsville, Ontario Canada which bought its wheat gluten (you guessed it) from China. Of course as far as the pet owners are concerned, Menu Foods, the Canadian company is still responsible. In 2007, Menu faced about 90 lawsuits for petfood related deaths.

Likewise the 2004 pet deaths from contaminated petfoods that took place earlier in parts of Asia, was also later categorized as similar to the 2007 incident. The culprit was also melamine.

What seems strange though (at least to little old unscientific me) is that the "science" around the toxicity of melamine to humans (when taken from animals who have been exposed to it) is something of a puzzle. According to the United States Food and Drugs Administration (in 2007), "there is very low risk to human health from hogs and chickens known to have been fed animal feed supplemented with pet food scraps that contain melamine and malamine related compounds."

If the meat from animals fed with melamine is supposed to be relatively harmless, how is milk different? (Is it because it is from China?) According to a French scientific journal, melamine is also a chemical byproduct of some common pesticides. So imagine that. Melamine, as it turns out does not only get added to the feed to boost protein content but is present on crops by virtue of the chemicals sprayed on them (e.g. wheat) over a period of time!

My own take on this melamine business (and from what I have read about its toxicity in a couple of scientific articles) is that it is not supposed to be in our food in the first place. While I certainly am not taking sides here (in this case, China's), the entire process of food recalls, bans and not to mention, the free ride "non-China made" products are getting from this issue, leads us nowhere near addressing food safety if we don't go further than point a finger at one of the culprits. Indeed, where are the rest?

As far as the issue of food safety (and sustainability) goes, we ought to be asking where our food comes from and how it is made/grown. Melamine in milk is only the beginning.

More on the the politics of milk in a past blogpost.

Watch The Meatrix for an entertaining beginner's look into the global food industry.

Vegans advocate dumping dairy products from your diet altogether. See

A study has linked MILK consumption to prostate cancer.

Also see Robert Cohen's book entitled "Milk the Deadly Poison."


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