Melaminometer: Easily Detect Harmful Melamine and Related Analogues.
- Monday, October 27, 2008 - China discovers eggs tainted with melamine. By DAVID BARBOZA, The New York Times. SHANGHAI, China - Hong Kong food inspectors have found eggs imported from northeast China to be contaminated with high levels of melamine, the toxic industrial additive at the heart of an adulteration scandal over Chinese milk products. The findings have raised new concerns here that a far wider array of China-produced foods than previously believed could be contaminated by melamine, which already has sickened more than 50,000 children in China and led to at least four deaths.
For biologists: Read the "Much needed product for world health" proposal first, then skip to the "Specific Metabolic Activity".
For DIY-biologists or iGEM types: Read the "As proof of DIY Bio" proposal first, then skip to "Biochemistry Background".
For non-scientists and/or normal people: Read the "Much needed product for world health" proposal first, then skip to "Toxicology Background" and other background information.
- Commercial food testing is unlikely to change in the short term
- Commercial testing has failed to meet safety standards demanded by consumers
- A method for establishing harmful content in food is needed at "Point-of-care"
- Harmful product may especially exist in resource-constrained communities where commercial testing is lax
- Consumers should have a means of testing food themselves.
- Technical Summary
- Current Practices of Detection
- Specific Metabolic Activity
- Related Metabolic Activity
January 2009: The research is the first to positively link the plastic-making chemical with kidney problems, though doctors had strongly suspected a causal relationship. Melamine-tainted milk is blamed for the deaths of six children in China and making another 290,000 people sick. Melamine-tainted candy is suspected in the illness of a Virginia girl and in the unexplained illness and deaths of thousands of family pets throughout the United States.
December 2008: "Now melamine is being discovered in other foods, which are turning up worldwide. [..] Since melamine is in animal feed in China, it has now been detected in eggs; it has also been found in wheat gluten and other foods. Furthermore, the FDA has found trace levels of melamine in several U.S. infant formulas. A number of suspect foods from China tested by the FDA were found to contain melamine (see table), and more are being reported around the world each week. [..] In today's world, it is crucial to understand and deal with the global implications of foodborne diseases if problems like the melamine epidemic are to be prevented."
- -- New England Journal of Medicine, Melamine and the Global Implications of Food Contamination, Julie R. Ingelfinger, M.D.
November 2008: U.S. FDA halts all dairy imports from China, plus cheese, cereals, bakery products, ready-to-eat packaged breakfast foods, soft drinks, soft candy, cat and dog food.
October 2008: Harmful levels of Melamine contamination found in eggs exported from China to Hong Kong, in bread in Taiwan, and in crackers in Philippines. Popular media reports over 50,000 people adversely affected.
2008: Large-scale contamination found in wide variety of milk products exported from China. Hospitalized and/or affected population reported in popular media to be between 10,000 and 50,000 people. U.S. FDA issues guidelines for maximum content.
2007: Pet food contamination triggers intensive research into chemically or physically determining presence of harmful agents & their metabolic pathways.
Mid 2000s: Metabolism of melamine and/or related compounds in bacteria metabolism studied in further detail using genetic analysis.
Mid 1990s: biotech interest in melamine metabolism due to possibility of enhancing plant nitrogen takeup in optimizing fertilization. Not much known about metabolic pathway. Nothing known about related gene expression. Bacterial strains known; Pseudomonas isolates, two Klebsiella isolates, and a Rhodococcus isolate).
Early 1990s: Melamine catabolism studied as means to degrade atrazine herbicide in the U.S. Pseudomonas used and first plasmids created.
Mid 1980s: HPLC analysis allows quantitative measurement of melamine pathway; prior to this, identification of intermediates is difficult.
Late 1970s: Partial, tentative, data into melamine degradation is published.
Design Team Schedule
- NYMU holidays: 1/1/09-1/4/09 (New Year), 1/25/09-1/30/09 (Chinese New Year)
- Oct 08: Initial requirements & research
- Nov 08: Set design goals. Initial dry lab design ideas.
- Dec 08: Wet lab eval and initial measurements.
- Jan 08 (planned): Fix dry lab design. Wet lab implementation.
- Feb 08 (planned): Wet lab measurements from design. Feedback into model.
- Mar 08 (planned): Report on working results.