A New Method to Detect Melamine


Serious hikers and those who travel are quite familiar with the many varieties of portable water testers. But who would have imagined that here in the United States we would ever feel the need or desire to test our pet food or baby formula?

With an estimated 50,000 Chinese children sickened and several deaths after drinking melamine contaminated formula, and the reported deaths 8,500 dogs and cats in the United States from contaminated pet food produced in China, the folks at Purdue University were inspired to invent a new analysis method that can detect the kidney-damaging chemical in a matter of seconds.

“This situation created an immediate need for an analytical method that is highly sensitive, fast, accurate, and easy to use,” said R. Graham Cooks, Purdue’s Henry B. Hass distinguished professor of chemistry on the Purdue website. Hass led the team that developed the analysis method, which included Guangming Huang, a postdoctoral research associate, and Zheng Ouyang, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering. A paper detailing their work was published online in the journal Chemical Communications and will appear in the next issue of the journal.

Cooks said that even without direct contamination, trace amounts of melamine sometimes make their way into consumable products because melamine is used in manufacturing and is found in many packaging materials. At trace levels, said Cooks, the chemical is not known to be a health threat and has been deemed safe by the FDA. Our analysis, he added, provides a way to determine whether the amounts present exceed safe levels.

The Office of Naval Research Research Tools Program funded this research.

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