Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Formula Factory: Nutrition or Baby Junk Food?

In the past few weeks I have been following the infant formula case of a 10 day old infant who died from consuming bacteria infested formula sold in a Missouri Walmart store. My heart broke when I heard the headline and I decided it was time to do some research on the ingredients many mamas are feeding their babies during the first year of life.

Before infant formula was attempted in the late 1800's, most women used wet nurses to feed their babies if they were unable to breastfeed themselves. In 1915 the first powdered formula was developed, marketed and sold by pediatricians to women who could not or did not want to breastfeed. It was interestingly called "dry nursing". As the years progressed more research and understanding entered the arena of baby formula but the duplication of human breast milk was never achieved. By the 1970's the evaporated milk formulas had all but disappeared and the major game players took over the market with their brands of Similac and Enfamil. During this era over 75% of infants were fed with marketed baby formula largely due to the introduction of free samples given at the hospital and formula being fed to the infant while in the nursery.

All formulas sold in the U.S. are regulated to contain the same density of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, but the problems lurk in the additives and preservatives that are used.
Melamine is a chemical which is combined with formaldehyde to make resins, Formica countertops and other household products. It is included in small amounts in formula to imitate plant proteins but a very small dosage causes death in laboratory rats. In 2008 there was a Chinese formula scandal where too much melamine was included in a batch of formula and 300,000 infants were affected with nearly 1,000 hospitalized and 6 infants dead from kidney failure. In soy based formulas phytoestrogens are added which can cause abnormal development in children. In 2010 Similac was recalled due to a "small common beetle" being found in some containers of their formula. Aspartic and glutamic acids are included in all of the name brand formulas. These acids are essentially MSG and are harmful to any humans, especially infants. MSG causes endocrine disorders such as obesity, reproductive problems and learning disabilities in children.
Below you will find the ingredients in bold type that are the ones in question in a few of the major formulas on U.S. shelves today.

Nestle Carnation Good Start (Easy to Digest Comfort proteins) enzymatically hydrolyzed reduced minerals, whey protein concentrate (from cows' milk), vegetable oils (palm olein, soy, coconut, high-oleic safflower), lactose, cornmaltodextrin..

Enfamil Nutramigen Hypoallergenic Formula Water, corn syrup solids....casein hydrolysate, modified corn starch...carrageenan, L-cysteine....

Ross Isomil Soy Formula with Iron Water, corn syrup, sugar, soy protein isolate...modified cornstarch...carrageenan...

MeadJohnson Enfamil with Iron Reduced minerals, whey,nonfat milk...carrageenan...
Studies have found infants in developed countries who consume formula are at increased risk for acute otitis media (ear infections), gastroenteritis, lower respiratory tract infections, dermatitis, asthma, type 1 diabetes, SIDS, eczema and autism when compared to infants who are breastfed.
All of these formulas are inspected by the FDA to be safe and a good alternative to breastfeeding, but in truth, are they really? In reality they are highly processed foods that are put through a six step process to mix, pasteurize, homogenize, standardize, package and sterilize before they even reach the shelves. Are we essentially feeding our infants junk food when we could be giving them exactly what they need to learn and grow with human breast milk? Would we even conceive of giving our six month old a bag of chips, an Icee and a frozen pizza for their lunch? It sounds ridiculous, but the ingredients in many formulas are like unto taking your child to a greasy Chinese restaurant day after day or letting them belly up to the convenience store bar, so to say.

In the U.S. formula is heavily marketed and given for free to nearly every woman who births in a hospital. It is also free to low income women on the WIC program, which constitutes nearly 1/3 of our population.
The World Health Organization developed an international health policy for breastfeeding promotion called the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes in hopes of encouraging all mothers to educate themselves and be self reliant and do what's best for their infants by breastfeeding. Their aim is to have truth in marketing and to encourage formula companies to have labels that include the superiority of breast milk. They oppose the free sampling of formula in hospitals and they encourage formula companies to only use safe, nutritious and whole ingredients. Many major U.S. infant formula companies are in violation of this code and since it is not legally enforceable, refuse to abide by it.

As we watch the unfortunate headlines and educate ourselves about the ingredients used in infant formula we see a pattern of insanity. Nestle, Mead Johnson and other companies are not using completely safe ingredients, are continuing to use preservatives and additives that are harmful and will clear the shelves from time to time and then do the same thing all over again. This is the definition of insanity and we as consumers should be smarter and think more deeply about what we are feeding our precious newborns and how it will affect them throughout their lives.


jenbruggeman said...


*manzanita* said...

Hello, my name is Jennifer Lucero and I am the producer of a new documentary called Catching Babies. It is a 60 minute film that follows midwives living, learning and working on the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas. I am wondering if you can connect me with people who may be interested in hosting a screening. I included the link to the trailer. Let me know your thoughts. Thank you!