Scientists develop test for melamine in milk

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. researchers have developed a quick way to test milk for the presence of melamine, an industrial chemical found last year in milk in China that killed at least six children and made thousands sick.

Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana said on Wednesday the method can detect tiny traces of the chemical in liquid and powdered milk in about 25 seconds.

The analysis method uses a simplified version of a mass spectrometer, a tool that can be used to separate and identify molecules in compounds.

The team developed the tool specifically to detect melamine, which was also found in contaminated pet food that killed thousands of dogs and cats in the United States in 2007.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last November issued guidelines limiting melamine in dairy products to 1 part per million or less.

“This situation created an immediate need for an analytical method that is highly sensitive, fast, accurate and easy to use,” R. Graham Cooks, who led the team, said in statement.

“We took it as a challenge to use simpler instrumentation and to develop a faster method that allows the testing to be done on site,” said Cooks, whose findings were published in the journal Chemical Communications.

Melamine, normally used to make plastics, has been found in milk powder, wheat gluten and other Chinese-made ingredients used in products ranging from pet food to candy.

Melamine’s ability to make foods appear to have higher amounts of protein during testing has made it a cheap but dangerous substitute that can damage the kidneys.

(Editing by Will Dunham and Matthew Bigg)

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