Wednesday

A black box label on infant formula


"You can't make me breastfeed!!" The woman screamed those words into our WIC office from the hallway. She felt that the WIC breastfeeding promotion was an ultimatum. I am not sure why she came to that conclusion. No one in our office had seen her before. So it seemed that the rumor-mill among the clients had changed the promotion theme to an ultimatum. I don't remember what happened after that, what we said or did. But I know we felt like we were walking on "eggshells." How does one turn society around when that society is walking down a self-destructive path? Do we force the issue? And we all know that force/power may work overtly but that human nature does not respond well to being told what to do. We are a creature that yearns to be free. No one responds well to being told what to do or how to think. Thus, a government program that is about promoting breastfeeding becomes in the minds of some people another vestige of the government's power trip. I wonder now, if women who feel so strongly against breastfeeding, were to understand the underpinning of the infant formula industry; might they change their minds? The research has and is creating a formula to imitate human milk. Genetic engineering has created the open door to creating "novel" human milk components to be placed in baby formulas. So moms, if ya don't breastfeed, then by golly our scientists will make sure your baby gets the synthetic version. Yet, where is the safety data on these gene constructs placed in formulas for our most vulnerable population? Not anywhere that I can see because there is this belief perpetuated by the FDA that a genetically engineered organism is identical to the real thing. Thus there is no need to look at safety issues. So our society is allowing our infants to be the lab rats, the guinea pigs to a massive scientific experiment. No need to label the ingredients that are genetically engineered. Parents are left in the dark about what they are feeding their babies and their children.
After reading so many patents on infant formula and their use of these "synthetic" human milk components, I find myself very troubled. Over the years, there is a repeat pattern that appears in these patents. There is a problem with infant formula and we need to reinvent the formula--repeated over and over again. So how much damage has been done over the years? What is the financial cost, not only in terms of the product itself, but in the medical bills and hospitalizations caused by a product that damages the gut, is sometimes contaminated with toxins and pathogens that kill? Now that the industry seeks to imitate human milk's healthful benefits, and no longer considers its product just a food, shouldn't this product be considered a drug in need of regulation? How many products on the marketplace that can cause death, acute illness, and long-term health problems stay on the market without a listing of those possibilities for the consumers? Shouldn't parents at least see on an infant formula can a black box label of the risks to their infant: diarrhea, allergies, short gut, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, decreased learning abilities, etc. All these serious health effects are mentioned in the infant formula patents. Why do we believe that infant formula is a benign product?

a "NOVEL" infant formula
Patent #78675411, "Compositions & methods of formulation for enteral formulas containing sialic acid" owned by Mead Johnson filed in 2003

"While human breast milk contains substantial amounts of sialic acid, most infant formulas contain less than 25% of the sialic acid found in colostrum. Moreover, 70% of the sialic acid in formulas is glycoprotein-bound, unlike human breast milk in which 75% of sialic acid is bound to oligosaccharides. See Heine, W., et al., Monatsschr Kinderheilkd 141:946-50 (1993), Wang, B., et al., Am J Clin Nutr 74:510-5 (2001), and Nakano, T., et al, Acta Paediatr Taiwan 42:11-17 (2001). Not surprisingly, the accumulation of sialic acid by breast-fed infants is generally higher than for formula-fed infants. See Wang, B., et al., J Pediatr 138:914-6 (2001). Evidence suggests that N-acetyineuraminic acid (NANA, or sialic acid) is important in the development and function of the neonatal brain where it is a major component of gangliosides. See Carlson, S. E., Am J Clin Nutr 41:720-6 (1985), Morgan, B. and Winnick, M., J Nutr 110:416-24 (1980), Svennerholm, L., et al., Biochim Biophys Acta 1005:109-17 (1989), and Wang, B., et al., Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol 435-9 (1998). Therefore, infants fed commercial formulas may not be acquiring sufficient quantities of a nutrient important for early development. "

A problem with the development and function of the neonatal brain? I thought DHA and ARA was suppose to resolve that issue? So add brain dysfunction to the list of risks? Looks like they have scientific research to back up their claims but will parents ever understand the risks?
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

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