Melamine is a small man-made, nitrogen-rich molecule which has been in use since it was first synthesized in 1834. Melamine has been combined with formaldehyde to form melamine resin which is used in countertops, whiteboards, flame retardants and home goods.
The scare of the past two years has actually come from melamine and a group of other associated chemicals: ammeline, ammelide and cyanuric acid. The illegal uses of these compounds as counterfeit protein substitutes in food products have caused illness and death in people and animals.
Proteins are organic molecules which contain, among other elements, nitrogen. Testing of many food items for protein involves the calculation of the nitrogen content to determine the amount of protein. Manufacturers from China added melamine and cyanuric acid to boost the nitrogen level of their products and therefore artificially elevate the protein levels of their products.
Unfortunately, melamine and cyanuric acid readily form together a complex network of bonds called melamine cyanurate. This new, very large molecule becomes a physical obstruction in body tissues and organs such as the kidneys. The crystals build up in the systems and shut the organs down. Melamine cyuranate is actually more toxic than either melamine or cyanuric acid alone.
The new awareness of the potential contamination of food stocks has prompted more laboratories to test for melamine, cyanuric acid and their associated compounds. SPEX CertiPrep has several standards for these compounds:
- S-4806: Melamine (500 µg/mL)
- S-4807: Cyanuric Acid (1000 µg/mL)
- S-4808: Ammeline (1000 µg/mL)
- S-4809: Ammelide (100 µg/mL)
- XQ-4042: All four compounds (1000 µg/mL)