DOH expert downplays health risks from China milk

Posted at 09/27/2008 2:16 PM | Updated as of 09/28/2008 11:28 AM

A Department of Health (DOH) official on Saturday downplayed the risks, especially for adults, of getting kidney stones by drinking melamine-contaminated milk from China.

In an interview over radio dzMM’s Magandang Morning, DOH chief epidemiologist Dr. Eric Tayag said babies can get kidney stones if they drink more than two cups a day of melamine-tainted milk for several months.

“Sa pag-aaral ng BFAD [Bureau of Food and Drugs] ang baby maaaring magkaroon ng ganoong problema sa bato kapag more than two cups a day for several months. Alam naman natin na ang baby formula lang ang pinagkukunan nila ng sustansya. Kaya nga yung mga bata ang naaapektuhan,” he said.

Tayag explained that melamine posed a lesser threat for adults since it would take more than 15 cups of milk everyday for several months, saying that it would take a record-holder to drink that much milk. “Pero yung mga sasali sa Believe it or Not, baka ayun pa,” he said.

Although intake of melamine-contaminated milk can lead to kidney stones, Tayag pointed out that there are many other causes of kidney failure. He reiterated that not all cases of kidney ailments should be traced back to melamine-tainted products.

“Gusto naming linawin na maraming dahilan para magkaron ng bato sa kidney maging sa mga bata. At ito’y hindi lang naman dahil sa melamine. Halimbawa yung diet, mahilig sa salty food at kulang yung iniinom na tubig,” he said.
 
Tayag advised the public to stay away from salty foods and to drink at least two liters of water a day. He said that only safe and clear drinking water should be consumed to prevent the accumulation of crystals in the kidney.

“Hindi po binibilang yung juice sa iniinom na tubig. Kailangang tubig talaga na hindi bababa sa 2 liters a day. Kailangan yung tubig na iniinom nyo malinaw kasi kung hindi magproproduce ng crystals sa kidney natin magkakaroon talaga ng pagbara,” he said.   

Tayag said that since kidneys of babies and children are not yet fully developed, it is harder for them to be treated when diagnosed of kidney stones.

He said that children who have repeated infections ought to consult a doctor or get an ultrasound examination to check if they have kidney stones.


Singapore's AVA has same advice

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), which has detected melamine in eight products imported from China, has also downplayed the health risk from melamine-contaminated products from China.

AVA suspended imports and sale of all milk and milk products from China beginning September 19, 2008.

"We would also like to assure the public that the levels of melamine detected in the products are low and hence unlikely to result in adverse health effects," the AVA said early this week.

"Consumers have to consume large quantities over a prolonged period of time to have any potential ill effects on health," the AVA said.

In its advisory, the AVA said the "Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of melamine as established by the US Food and Drug Administration is 0.63 mg/kg body weight.

"This means that an adult weighing 60 kg or a child weighing 30 kg can ingest 37.8 mg of melamine and 18.9 mg of melamine every day over a lifetime without any appreciable health risk," the AVA said.


Melamine used in plastic

Tayag explained that checking for melamine content is not usually part of BFAD’s routine inspection since melamine is not really made for human consumption. Because of the melamine scare in China, he said that BFAD had to make adjustments and revisions from their usual examination of milk products.

“Wala sa human consumption yan kaya hindi mo dapat makita sa gatas. Sapagkat ang testing na ginagawa ng BFAD ay hindi kasama yang melamine kaya nagcalibrate pa sila, naantala ang kanilang testing sa mga nakumpiskang gatas, mga milk products. Kailangan pong maintindihan na nadiskubre lamang ito sapagkat nareport sa Tsina. Kaya hindi po talaga routine na tinetest ang melamine. Ngayon pa lamang nagkaroon ng pagkakataon dun sa mga nangyari sa mga sanggol at mga bata sa Tsina,” he said.

According to Tayag, in order to pass quality standards for baby formula, it has to have a high amount of protein, which has nitrogen.

He said that since melamine is also a nitrogen source, milk manufacturers of China used melamine as a substitute.

Tayag said that even though the finished product appeared to be high in protein, melamine-tainted milk produces crystals in the kidney that may lead to kidney failure, causing death in babies and children.

“Kasi yung formula para pumasa sa quality standard, kailangang mataas yung protina. Sapagkat yung protina may nitrogen, dumiskarte kasi yung gumagawa ng gatas sa Tsina na-dilute nila ng tubig yung gatas, bumaba ngayon yung protina. To concentrate, pinalitan nila ngayon ng melamine na mayaman sa nitrogen. Ang problema, nakakaproduce ng crystals sa kidney, kaya ayun, nagbabara. May mga bata na ngang namatay [dahil dito],” he said.

He said that melamine is originally used in the manufacture of non-food products such as plastic and fertilizer. Tayag pointed out, however, that melamine in plastic food containers will not be transferred to food items.

“Ang gusto naming linawin, kasi kahit mga plasticware nadadamay. Sa pag-aaral ng BFAD hindi matatanggal yung melamine doon. Hindi masasama sa pagkain,” he said.


Products being tested

The BFAD on Friday released a partial list of milk and other milk products undergoing testing for possible melamine contamination.

Below is the partial list:
1. Anchor Lite Milk
2. Anchor Wam Froot Milk Drink Mango Magic
3. Anchor Wam Froot Milk Drink Orange Chill
4. Anchor Wam Froot Milk Drink Strawberry Spin
5. Anlene Milk
6. Anmum Materna 180 g
7. Anmum Materna Chocolate
8. Dutch Lady Pure Milk
9. Farmland Skim Milk
10. Green Food Yili Pure Milk
11. Jinwei Drink
12. Jolly Cow Pure Fresh Milk
13. Jolly Cow Slender Low Fat Milk
14. KLIM instant full cream milk 1.8kg
15. M&M Chocolate Brown 40g
16. Meiji Hokkaido Azuki (Red Bean Ice Cream)
17. Meiji Ujikintoki (Red Bean and Green Tea Frozen Confection)
18. Mengniu Original Drink Milk
19. Mengniu Pure Milk
20. Milk Chocolate Bars/China
21. Milk Chocolate Candies/China
22. Milk Boy repacked
23. Milk Boy repacked
24. Monmilk Breakfast Milk Walnut Milk Beverage
25. Monmilk High Calcium Low Fat Milk
26. Monmilk High Calcium Milk
27. Monmilk  Milk Deluxe Pure Milk
28. Monmilk Pure Milk
29. Monmilk  Suan Suan Ru Sour Milk Beverage (mango flavor)
30. Natural Choice Milk Ice Bar
31. Nespray
32. Nestle Carnacion Calcium Plus non fat milk powder 1.6 kg
33. Nestle Chocolate Flavor Ice Cream cone
34. Nestle Dairy Farm Pure Milk
35. Nestle Vanilla Flavor Ice Cream Cone
36. Nutri Express Milk
37. Nutri Express Milk 15 Nutritional Elements (Blue, Red and Orange label and cap)
38. Nutri Express Milk
39. Nutri Express Milk Green Apple
40. Prime Roast Cereals 28g
41. Pura Fresh Milk
42. Snickers brown 59 grams
43. Strawberry Sorbet
44. Trappist Dairy Low Fat Yogurt Drink
45. Vita Fresh Milk
46. Wahaha Orange
47. Wahaha Yellow
48. Want Want milk drink
49. Yili High Calcium 250ml
50. Yili High Calcium Milk 1 liter
51. Yili High Calcium Low fat milk beverage
52. Yili Low Fat Milk 1 liter
53. Yili Milk
54. Yili Pure Milk 250 ml
55. Yili Pure Milk 1 liter
56. Yinlu Milk Peanut