A medical expert fears that the food safety scandal involving contaminated milk from China could get worse since the effects on humans who have taken melamine-contaminated milk are not immediately visible.
In a telephone interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), Dr. Wenceslao Kiat, a toxicologist at the St. Luke's Medical Center, said "the biggest problem here is...if you've taken any milk product that contains melamine, you don't see the effect overnight."
Kiat said babies are the most susceptible to falling ill from contaminated milk.
"The primary food of babies is milk. They drink a lot of milk , they drink a lot of water. So we expect the most vulnerable population are babies," Kiat said.
However, he said the effects of drinking melamine-contaminated milk cannot be seen overnight. "That's why I think it's long term."
Kiat said another problem is the lack of studies in the Philippines on the effects of melamine on humans.
"Unfortunately, we don't still have human toxicity studies with regards to melamine. They did some studies in animals, and they found out it can really cause urinary bladder stones, and even kidney stones," he said.
Fortunately, he said the medical reports coming from China are "compatible with the findings" from studies done locally.
"If you take in milk everyday that contains melamine, you still have a very high chance of developing stones in this part of the body, your urinary bladder, and kidneys," he said.
Kiat said the impact of melamine on humans can be particularly bad on bladders and kidneys. "It can cause kidney failure and even death," he said.
To avoid falling ill from contaminated milk, Kiat urged Filipino consumers to buy milk from "reputable" companies that have a good track recrod.
"You have to make sure what you're giving to your child or baby is a milk that has been manufactured by a reputable company, one that doesn't have any milk products tainted by chemicals before," he said.
Kiat said consumers should heed the advisory of the Bureau of Food and Drugs warning against contaminated milk products from China.
He advised consumers to buy milk products not made in China even if these may be more expensive.
"So if you're talking about the price because it's a lot cheaper, it's a lot more expensive to be hospitalized nowadays, so you have to choose between the two," Kiat said.
He also urged those who suspect that they have taken a lot of contaminated milk to consult their physicians, "just to make sure" that they are not ill.
"We don't want to be late, because if you start developing stones at an early stage and if it can be detected as soon as possible, I think you can do a lot more in preventing future problems," Kiat said.
The Department of Health (DOH) admitted Wednesday that is already investigating kidney-related cases of babies in a hospital that may have been caused by contaminated milk formulas from China.
Dr. Eric Tayag, chief of DOH-National Epidemiology Center, said the health department is checking the background of the babies' kidney cases. He refused however to give details, including the name of the hospital.
"We will try to trace if the babies have histories of milk formula feeding, and then we will trace through the BFAD (Bureau of Food and Drugs), the source of the milk formula," Tayag told ABS-CBN's morning show, "Umagang Kay Ganda."
The DOH probe comes amidst a scandal on China’s milk products that have been found to be contaminated with melamine.
Some brands of China’s milk products were found to be sold in some stores in the Philippines before a ban on its sale and importation was imposed.
At least 50,000 babies in China have been brought to hospitals for kidney-related illnesses caused by drinking milk formulas tainted with melamine.
Majority of the sickened Chinese babies developed kidney stones by drinking tainted milk products.