Infants who consumed melamine-laced milk are prone to renal problems such as formation of kidney stones and kidney failure.INSUFFICIENT funds have caused the Department of Health to be underhanded and nearly defenseless in the prevention of importing melamine-containing food products now ravaging China.

Although studies pointing to melamine’s adverse effects on humans have yet to be published, researches on the compound’s exposure to animals suggest negative effects such as renal ailments related to accumulation of bladder stones, which may lead to total kidney failure and in some cases, even death.

Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, former secretary of the Department of Health, said that the true intention of these products is to deceive in order to be competitive, business -wise.

Melamine became a solution for China because among the substances, it can disguise nutritional value.

A substance used in plastics, melamine is a disguised protein or a pseudo-protein, Galvez-Tan said in an interview.

In the Philippines, measures to prevent the entry of melamine-laced products are inadequate.

Dr. Jaime Galvez-TanThe problem, according to Galvez-Tan, is that funding to support preventive actions against the situation is too small.

“The Department of Health, with the estimated amount of P18 billion as budget from the government, is only given one percent or P180,000,” Galvez-Tan said.

Galvez-Tan said this is not enough to prevent the influx of melamine-containing food products into the country.

“When products enter countries like the United States, they have mini-laboratories in ports so that the products can be tested for other substances,” Galvez-Tan said. “Sadly in the Philippines, due to low funding, they cannot even perform that procedure.”

The other problem mentioned is that less attention is given to regulations that can help support preventive actions against melamine entering the Philippines.

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“Nobody is given enough chances to uphold the regulations that are set by the Department of Health,” Galvez-Tan told the Varsitarian.

Dangers of melamine

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that more than 47,000 Chinese infants and young children had been hospitalized while four infants had died due to complications from melamine consumption.

The compound was reportedly found in liquid milk, frozen yogurt desserts, biscuits, candies, and coffee.

The cause of these cases, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration, is the excess daily intake of melamine. Normally, it should only be 0.63 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.

For a five kilogram infant, the tolerable amount of melamine should only be 2.5 milligrams per day while a man weighing 50 kilograms can tolerate 25 milligrams of melamine per day.

According to WHO, infants who have consumed melamine-contaminated products have the following symptoms: unexplained crying especially when urinating, appearance of blood in urine, kidney failure, formation of kidney stones, high blood pressure, and presence of edema or excess body fluids in tissues.

The WHO said treatments done to ease melamine’s adverse effects include alkalinization of urine to dispel the stones; correction of water, electrolyte, and acid-base imbalance; and surgery to remove obstruction in the kidneys. Alena Pias P. Bantolo and Robin G. Padilla

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