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FDA Draws Fire Over Chemicals In Baby Formula

The FDA thinks the melamine and cyanuric acid got into the U.S. formula as a byproduct of manufacturing and not as a result of tampering, Leon said. Melamine is found in plastic food packaging and in cleaning solutions that are sometimes used in food processing equipment.

The FDA spokeswoman said no illnesses have been linked to melamine consumption in the United States.

But Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives for Consumers Union, said that may not be true. "Given that this is not a problem that American doctors are used to dealing with, we can't be sure that if a small number of these cases developed, the connection would be made," said Halloran, who wants the formulas to be recalled from store shelves. "We just don't know."

Halloran said it is also possible some babies are receiving a variety of infant formula and could be ingesting melamine in one bottle and cyanuric acid in another bottle, creating a dangerous mix.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who is on the House Commerce and Energy Committee, is also seeking a recall. "Until they establish a safety standard, how can they say what's safe?" he said. "They need to pull this."

Critics said the FDA's reassurances about products carry less weight after the recent controversy over bisphenol-A, a chemical found in plastic baby bottles, dinnerware and the linings of food cans. The FDA dismissed a growing body of scientific evidence that has linked BPA to health problems even as worried consumers stopped buying BPA-containing products. Instead, the FDA relied on two industry-funded studies that concluded that BPA did not pose a health risk. Last month, the agency's science advisory board said the agency should no longer maintain that BPA is safe.

"When FDA claims there isn't any reason to worry, that's exactly what the consumer should do," said Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group. "The once-revered public health agency has morphed into a taxpayer-funded public relations arm for the very industries it was created to oversee."

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