Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ireland's new guidance on reducing formula risks

Health authorities in Ireland yesterday issued guidance for parents on how to prepare powdered formula. The press release is available at:

An extract: "Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health and Nutrition at Safefood warned that powdered infant formula is not a sterile product and has the potential to cause illness if not prepared properly. In rare circumstances, powdered infant formula can contain the bacterium Enterobacter sakazakii (E.sakazakii) and other harmful bacteria. These bacteria can cause illness in infants. Babies under 2 months are most at risk. However, making up the formula using water that is above 70°C will kill E.sakazakii and any other bacteria like salmonella that may be present, said Dr Foley-Nolan."

Neither this warning nor the advice on how to reduce the risks of possible contamination is provided by baby food companies, though they have known of the problem since the 1960s. It came to widespread public attention following the death of a 5-day-old child in Belgium in 2002 linked to contaminated Nestlé formula.

The UK authorities updated their guidance to parents in 2005, put despite all formula companies issuing new labels since then, they have not included the warning or brought instructions into line. This can be found at:

Calls by the Baby Feeding Law Group, consisting of UK health worker and mother support groups, to make it a legal requirement to bring labels into line were rejected in a consultation last year as the industry called for action to be kept to a minimum. Instead Guidance Notes 'recommend' that companies change their labels. Even this recommendation though has not come into force as the industry has succeeded in having the regulations suspended through an action at the High Court.

For those using formula, or planning to do so, the Irish guidance is as follows:

The 10-steps on making baby’s bottles safely are:
  1. Boil water
  2. Leave to cool for 30 minutes * but no longer* [emphasis added - water should be above 70 Deg. C - companies do not tell parents this].
  3. Clean surfaces, wash hands
  4. Read the instructions on the formula’s label carefully
  5. Pour the boiled water into sterile bottle
  6. Add formula using scoop provided
  7. Shake well
  8. Cool quickly
  9. Check temperature is cool enough for baby
  10. Throw away any unused feed after 2 hours.

You can support Baby Milk Action's campaign to make formula feeding safer at:

The need for a legal requirement that companies bring their labels into line was demonstrated by the Belgium case. The parents took Nestlé to court for negligence in not providing correct warnings and instructions. The Judge found for Nestlé on the basis it had done what was required by the law.

1 comment:

half pint pixie said...

This is an interesting topic that I have seen talked about on Irish parenting boards. As a breastfeeder, I haven't been brave enough to join in, too many fights have started that way on these boards!

However, one recurring fact keeps presenting itself. Most (almost all) of the mothers ignore these guidelines. Most seem to boil the water the night before, divide it into sterilized bottles and use these throughout the next day, adding the formula powder as needed to the cold water.

The fact that the formula is not sterile seems to both acknowledged as fact, and yet at the same time the risk this poses is being dismissed as media spin under the overwhelming logic that sure hasn't it been done this way for years and all the babies have been ok. But have they? Do doctors necessarily know what causes each and every stomach upset etc?

There seems to be a lot of ostrich - head - in - the - sand reasoning going on with regards to all this, I guess nobody wants to think that they might be feeding their babies something that might make them sick! But it's something parents definitely need to inform themselves about if they formula feed.

Good on you for raising these issue s, the formula companies need to take more responsibility for the safe use of the products.