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Contaminants In Baby Foods

IBFAN emphasises that breastfeeding is the norm: it is the gold standard and protects the health of vulnerable infants. Artificial feeding using breastmilk substitutes and feeding bottles and teats (nipples) is a deviation from this norm. It can involve serious health risks and extra precautions should be taken when preparing, storing and handling feeds and selecting feeding utensils.To address this problem, the UN’s World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization have issued Guidelines on safe preparation storage and handling of powdered formula:

  • Manufacturers fail to warn product users about the possibility of intrinsic contamination of powdered milk formulas by harmful bacteria. These bacteria can cause infection in babies and young children.  Manufacturers must inform about the extra precautions to be taken to avoid this risk. Are the bacteria in powdered formulas friendly or unfriendly?


  • December 2017 –  Lactalis scandal in France goes global 
    The scandal of powdered baby milk products contaminated by harmful bacteria erupted in France in December 2017 and rapidly went global. 

    Infant, follow-on and growing up milk powders were manufactured by the French company Lactalis at their manufacturing site in France which also produces powdered baby milks and cereals for export. Some batches were contaminated by Salmonella enterica serotype Agona which can cause serious illness in infants and young children, a vulnerable population. 

    In France 35 babies under 1 year of age fell sick after consuming the products. The French government mandated the withdrawal of potentially contaminated products, not only in France but also in 20 and then in 40 countries. 

    By January 2018 the withdrawals and seizures involved all powdered milk and cereal products manufactured by the Lactalis company in 83 countries, and from all pharmacies, supermarkets, hospitals and crèches.  

    The International Baby Food Action Network, IBFAN, is working with groups all over the world to ensure that governments fully inform their citizens and enforce and monitor strict controls on imports and sales of the incriminated products. 

    Since 2005, IBFAN has been campaigning for warnings on labels of powdered baby milks.  New safety advice by WHO and FAO states that these products are not sterile and may be contaminated with pathogens that can cause serious illness. Extra precautions must be taken in preparation, storage and handling to reduce the risk. These Guidelines for infant formula are also relevant for powdered follow-on and growing up milks because these products are also included in the Lactalis withdrawals: 


  • June 2016 – Fatal case of bacterial infection in formula-fed baby in the USA increases urgency of circulating correct information about harmful bacteria 


  • 2016 alert by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the risks of harmful bacteria in formulas: Cronobacter/Enterobacter sakazakii : ‘Refreshed warning’ of the risks to infant health 


  • 2015 measures to ensure safer feeding for babies who cannot be breastfed: What are the risks of contaminated or adulterated formulas and how effective are different measures to address the problems of product safety and quality? “ How to tackle the problems of safety and quality of formula: examining effective measures



STOP PRESS : Fatal Fungus – fungal contamination of a probiotic used for preterm infants 

Cronobacter/Enterobacter sakazakii infections: There is every reason why governments and industry must take action