How safe is powdered infant formula?
New evidence suggests that bacterial contamination of powdered infant formula may be more widespread than previously recognised.
The concept of freedom of choice or "lifestyle choice for parents" is one of the justifications made by infant formula manufacturers to defend the massive promotion of their products. Using formula feeding rather than breastfeeding is presented as simple choice between two products that are not equivalent: powdered infant formula and breastmilk.
Breastmilk and powdered infant formulas are not equivalent. Conclusive evidence shows that breastfeeding provides protection against infections and stimulates the infant's immune system at a vulnerable stage of the child's development. Formula feeding lacks this immunological protection and puts infants at risk for a wide range of infectious diseases. And many people are already aware of the risks of formula feeding caused by dirty water, lack of hygiene and sanitation.
Scientific studies on the presence of harmful bacteria in unopened packages of powdered infant formula (PIF) have conclusively shown that powdered infant formula is not a sterile product. Potentially lethal bacteria such as Enterobacter sakazakii (recently renamed Cronobacter) and Salmonella species may be found at low levels in packages. These bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels once the powder is mixed with warm water to make the feed.
The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization have therefore issued the warning that: "Powdered infant formula is not sterile. It may contain bacteria that can cause serious illness in infants. Correct preparation and handling reduces the risk of illness", as fully explained in their Guidelines on the preparation, storage and handling of powdered infant formula to reduce the risks of infection caused by bacterial contaminants in formula feeding: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/micro/pif2007/en/index.html
The US Food and Drug Administration mandates monitoring for Enterobacter and Salmonella species. However, new research published in January 2010 in the Journal of Pediatrics suggests that these may not be the only bacteria of concern in PIF. After an infant in the UK developed infant botulism caused by infant formula contaminated by Clostridium botulinum, researchers in California conducted a two-year series of tests for bacterial contamination of powdered formulas manufactured in the USA. Read more….