by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Infant-formula

Sep 16 2008

Melamine in Chinese infant formula: the saga continues

My interview with Eating Liberally this week concerns the wake of the pet food recalls that I wrote about in Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine. Some Chihuahua!  Now we have the Chinese infant formula scandal and don’t we wish we had Country-of-Origin Labeling?  It’s been a busy few days on the scandal.  The toll so far is 2 babies dead and 1253 sick, with 340 still in the hospital, and 53 of these are in serious condition.   The Chinese have arrested two brothers who run a milk collection center on suspicion that they added melamine to make the protein content appear higher.  An investigation of dairy producers found 22 to be producing milk contaminated with melamine.  The largest of these dairies is owned in part by Fonterra, a New Zealand company.  Fonterra says it tried to get the formula recalled earlier but the Chinese refused.

September 17: Today, it’s 3 babies dead, 1,300 in the hospital, and 6,244 sick.  They were adding melamine to cover for diluting the milk with water.  Hmm.  Just like we used to do in the early years of the 20th century before passing pure food laws.  Regulation, anyone?

When I was in New Zealand last year at a ministerial agriculture meeting, I heard a lot about how ranchers were giving up on sheep and starting large dairy farms to supply milk to China.  This meant the end of pristine streams and sheep dotting the landscape.

Sep 12 2008

More on Chinese infant formula

The FDA has issued a warning not to buy infant formula made in China (read labels!), since some of it may be in ethnic markets in the U.S. under the “grey” market.  And China is investigating, threatening punishment, and issuing recalls.

Sep 11 2008

Eeks! Melamine in Chinese infant formula

I can hardly believe it but USA Today reports that Chinese infant formula has been found to be contaminated with melamine, the very same toxic ingredient that caused the pet food recalls of 2007.  Melamine-laced pet foods killed cats and dogs.  Who knows what it might do in infant formula.  Melamine is high in nitrogen.  Tests for protein just test for nitrogen and don’t care where it comes from.  Melamine, which is cheap, makes pet foods and infant formulas look like they have a lot of protein, which is expensive.   That would be bad enough but melamine and one of its by-products, cyanuric acid, form crystals that block kidney function.  The fraudulent addition of melamine to pet food is precisely the subject of my book, Pet Food Politics.  It’s subtitle is The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine.  Now you know why. 

May 19 2008

Organic infant formula with sucrose: an oxymoron?

The New York Times reports that the organic version of Similac infant formula is made with organic cane juice – sucrose – not lactose (milk sugar). Sucrose is sweeter than lactose; infants love it. Sucrose encourages infants to drink more formula and could promote weight gain.

But the goal of formula companies is to sell as much formula as possible. Because the number of formula-drinking babies is small and fixed, they either have to expand the number of mothers who use formula (rather than breast feed), or encourage infants to drink more. Either approach raises ethical issues. But why else would Abbott Labs, the maker of Similac, put sucrose in formula and organic formula at that? Can’t the company find a source for organic lactose? Is organic cane juice cheaper? And try this for a price comparison: at my local Duane Reade, organic Similac is nearly $31 per can, whereas Earth’s Best is just $26. This makes Earth’s Best a much better buy, especially because it uses organic lactose. Sucrose in infant formula? That’s one more good reason to breast feed.

May 16 2008

Pushing infant formulas: still a problem

Patty Rundall, of the British Baby Milk Action, a group that advocates for breastfeeding, and who also represents the Baby Feeding Law Group, which advocates for laws controlling marketing of infant formulas, sends this most interesting article from The Independent about the latest efforts by Nestlé (really, no relation) to prevent the UK Health Department from enforcing marketing restrictions on infant formulas. Will this saga never end?

May 5 2008

Soy infant formulas: OK but nothing special?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has just issued an updated assessment of the benefits and risks of soy infant formulas. Its conclusion: soy formulas are fine for full-term infants and hardly ever cause problems but they also are hardly ever needed as a replacement for cow’s milk formulas. Never mind which is better. Breast feeding is still best of all.

Aug 31 2007

Formula Industry Lobbies Against Breast Feeding

Thanks to Kerry Trueman of Eating Liberally for pointing out the investigative report in today’s Washington Post revealing how lobbyists for the infant formula industry induced the Department of Health and Human Services to tone down ads describing health risks to babies that are not breast-fed. These anti-public health lobbying efforts emerged in the wake of Congressional Hearings demonstrating widespread political interference with statements of health officials that might adversely affect some company’s products or the Bush administration’s ideology. The Post article links to two letters from a lobbyist, Clayton Yeutter, who in classic “Revolving Door” action used to be Secretary of the USDA under George Bush I. My favorite statement in his April 21, 2004 letter: “For our government to give all those mothers [those who cannot breast-feed] a guilt trip would just be appalling.” He goes on to explain that the proposed campaign would “send a risk-oriented message to [women in the WIC program]…that most of them will find incompatible with what they’re being told by USDA, and will at best confuse them, at worst frighten them.” Those of us who have followed lobbying efforts by infant formula companies (I describe the resulting boycott of Nestle formulas in Food Politics and more recent lobbying activities in the baby food chapter of What to Eat), will not be surprised. Breast feeding may be good for babies, but it is not good for formula companies–and they know it.

Page 4 of 41234