April 30, 2009

Lasers can detect melamine in baby formula

A Purdue University scientist says she has found a way to detect trace amounts of melamine in infant formula using readily available equipment.

Associate Professor Lisa Mauer said she used infrared lasers and light spectroscopy methods to detect melamine in baby formula at 1 part per million in about 5 minutes or less.

Melamine, a synthetic chemical used in plastics and other products, has been found in baby formula and other milk-based products imported from China. Health experts say high doses of melamine are associated with cancer in some animals and are especially dangerous for infants.

We have found detection methods that are inexpensive and do not require a lot of the product or time for sampling, said Mauer. Any company could do this itself. Police agencies, state departments of health and many colleges have this type of equipment.

She reports her testing method in the online before-print edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.