You've likely heard about how melamine was used in pet food and baby formula with disastrous consequences. And now there is yet another warning about melamine used in chocolate foil-wrapped coins. The candy company says the incident only concerns chocolate coins imported to Canada and that supplies in the US are not affected.
Just recently news reports announced that melamine is appearing in fresh eggs from China (sold in Hong Kong). They think the chickens were fed melamine.
Just what is melamine? Most of us know it as a kind of plastic used often for baby plates and cups (which is supposed to be safe to use, but is not recyclable).
I did some searching on the web and found that "Melamine is an organic compound that is often combined with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin, a synthetic polymer which is fire resistant and heat tolerant. Melamine resin is a very versatile material with a highly stable structure. Uses for melamine include whiteboards, floor tiles, kitchenware, fire retardant fabrics, and commercial filters. Melamine can be easily molded while warm, but will set into a fixed form. This property makes it ideally suited to certain industrial applications."
It has many practical industrial uses, but it sure does not belong in food products. Ingesting it causes renal failure. Wikipedia declares that "Melamine by itself is nontoxic in low doses" and it is "harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Chronic exposure may cause cancer or reproductive damage. Eye, skin and respiratory irritant.” However, the toxic dose is on a par with common table salt with an LD50 of more than 3 grams per kilogram of body weight."
Who knows where it will turn up next. Standards and ethics, please!