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Infant formulas 'still contaminated with aluminium'

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

11th October 2013 - Many baby formula milk products are still heavily contaminated with aluminium, which could be a risk to health, say researchers.

Experts at Keele University say manufacturers are unwilling to address the issue and are calling on the government to intervene.

The report conflicts with advice from the government's advisory body on safety, the Food Standards Agency, which recently reviewed the evidence about aluminium in formula milk and decided there was no cause for concern.

Three years ago the group, headed by Professor Chris Exley, drew attention to the problem by analysing 15 well-known brands of powdered and ready-made liquid formulas. They concluded that aluminium levels were too high, particularly for a product designed for premature babies and a soya-based product designed for infants with cow's milk intolerances and allergies.

'Urgent' need to lower levels

The authors said there was an urgent need to bring levels down to the lowest possible level in the light of research demonstrating the vulnerability of infants to early exposure to aluminium.

The Keele group has now followed up that research with a more extensive study looking at the 30 most popular brands of infant formula in the United Kingdom. Ten were ready to drink infant formulas and 20 powdered infant formulas.

Aluminium contamination levels varied considerably. In powdered milks they ranged from 0.69 millionth of a gram (μg/g) in Hipp Organic Growing Up to 5.27 μg/g in Cow & Gate Soya Infant Formula.

Manufacturers 'not concerned'

In a statement, Professor Exley says "Clearly the manufacturers of infant formulas are not concerned about reducing their content of aluminium and the extensive use of aluminium-based packaging for infant formulas seems to confirm this.

"There are no adequate criteria upon which to base a safety level for aluminium in infant formulas and for this reason it would be sensible to take action to reduce the level of aluminium to a lowest practicable level.

"Since manufacturers are not willing to address the aluminium content of infant formulas it must now be time for the government, through the Food Standards Agency, to provide guidance on this matter and to indicate a maximum allowable concentration, for example, 50 ppb (50 mg/L) aluminium in the product at point of use, as a precautionary step to protect infants against chronic aluminium intoxication during the earliest weeks, months and years of their lives."

Committee report

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency says in an emailed statement: "Independent experts from the Committee on Toxicity recently reviewed aluminium in the infant diet, including the levels of aluminium present in infant formula and taking into account the water used in reconstitution.

"They concluded that the estimated exposures of infants to aluminium from the dietary sources did not indicate toxicological concerns or a need for a change in Government advice."

Reviewed on October 11, 2013

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