Screening for Melamine, Cyanuric Acid, and Dicyandiamide in Powdered Milk and Infant Formula

By June 22, 2015

iStock_4855318XL_baby_formula_bottleMelamine and cyanuric acid (CA) are low mass, nitrogen-rich compounds that have been linked to protein adulteration in various foodstuffs in the past.1 While melamine and cyanuric acid are not individually toxic, in combination they can sometimes form an adduct compound through hydrogen bonding, melamine cyanurate, that produce sharp crystals which can cause internal organ failure and possible death.2 A similar compound, dicyandiamide (DCD), which is used to minimize the environmental impact of grazing livestock was found in small amounts in dairy products in New Zealand.3 Published limits on melamine in infant formula are 1 mg/kg, and
2.5 mg/kg in other foods and animal feed. These values are based on the TDI (tolerable daily intake) of melamine and its analogues of 0.64 mg/kg body weight (bw).4 Recently a more stringent TDI for melamine and its analogs of 0.2 mg/kg body weight was established.5 For DCD, the European Food Safety Agency has established a TDI of 1 mg/kg body weight.6 As these compounds are quite polar, reverse-phase methods do not typically work well for these analytes.

A rapid screening method for melamine, cyanuric acid, and dicyandiamide in infant formula has been developed using mass detection that provides:

  • Retention of these difficult, highly polar analytes
  • Rapid baseline separation of analytes in less than three minutes
  • Simple sample preparation
  • Selectivity and sensitivity of mass detection, without extensive mass spectrometry training.

For detailed information on this approach, download the complete application note.



  1. Import alert #99–29, “Detention without physical examination of all vegetable protein products from China for animal or human food use due to the presence of melamine and/or melamine analogs”. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 27 April 2007.
  2. Culprit in pet food deaths may be combination of contaminants. Michigan State University. November 29, 2007.
  3. Government downplays DCD risk. News NZ. January 27, 2013.
  4. US FDA, Interim Melamine and Analogues Safety/ Risk Assessment May 25, 2007, http// melamra.html
  5. The EFSA Journal 2010, 8, 1573.
  6. The EFSA Journal (2004) 36, 1–6.