Melamine: Making an Impact with Food and Safety Trends

April 2021

The word "melamine" recalls the scandal in 2008, when as much as 20% of Chinese milk products were adulterated with the chemical. The earlier incident has had a damaging effect on the international dairy industry.

The milk melamine scandal of 2008 is a clear indication that not all dairy producers follow stringent requirements for food safety. 

This is just one example from a long list of companies who have been negligent in adhering to proper food safety procedures. It's important to note these business challenges in order to recognize each company’s responsibility in maintaining their own levels of sanitation and food safety practices for their customers' convenience — and assure that these guidelines are known by all parties involved.

The main ingredients of concern for bakery and pastry products are wheat, yeast, eggs and milk. Melamine is an industrial compound used as a plasticizer in many products from plastics to paper to paints, concrete and gypsum. This article will focus on how melamine has become an adulterant of foodstuffs.

Food poisoning caused by the presence of melamine is rare but it has happened in China, Vietnam and Singapore as a result of tainted rice protein concentrate imported from China. The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) bans melamine or any other toxic substance for cattle feed because it can be harmful to animals.

Melamine is a chemical substance used to make plastics and fertilizers. It's also used as an additive in food and drink products, such as animal feed or milk. Demand for melamine has been steadily rising due to the key role it plays in several industrial processes, including new technologies like 3D printers.

In this post, we'll be discussing challenges related to the production of melamine, the main obstacles that must be overcome for its demand to continue steadily growing, and ways that melamine can contribute positively to society while still meeting environmental regulations and respecting international trade agreements.

Melamine Production

Melamine is almost exclusively produced as a solution, meaning it's made by mixing the chemical with water and then adding ammonia (NH3). In its most basic form, a solution of melamine looks like this:

Melamine can be found in many forms, depending on the purpose of the final product. Food grade melamine is nearly always in aqueous form. But if needed, that material can often be converted into other forms with special equipment. For example:

If you want to make plastics or other types of products out of melamine, you need a solid molecule to work with. And that's where the biggest challenges start:

Isolation of solid melamine molecules:  In order to make plastics from melamine, the liquid must be separated into its individual component parts. Melamine has two forms that are of different density: a soluble form (melisol) and a less soluble form (melamine oxide)

Organic solubility of melamine in water:  Melamine is known for being "very" soluble in water. This is due to its molecular structure, which includes nitrogen atoms, carbon atoms, hydrogen atoms, and oxygen atoms. This is also why it takes so much heat to evaporate it from industrial solutions like ammonia.

Leave Comment