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Infant Formula Manufacturers Again under Ethical Cloud: 'Marketing Gimmick' Linked to Serious Illnesses
Date:1/24/2008

ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A report released today by The Cornucopia Institute presents research indicating that new additives placed in infant formula are seriously endangering the health of some formula-fed newborns and toddlers.

The report, 'Replacing Mother--Imitating Human Breast Milk in the Laboratory,' details research questioning the alleged benefits of adding "novel" omega-3 fatty acids, produced in laboratories and extracted from algae and fungus, into infant formulas. The additives raised health and safety red flags during preapproval testing while aggressive marketing campaigns by some infant formula manufacturers appear to have encouraged new mothers to give up nursing for the questionable products.

"When I worked in the hospital's neonatal ward, the nurses all called it 'the diarrhea formula'," says Sam Heather Doak, LPN, IBCLC, from Marietta, Ohio. "We've seen infants, tiny little humans, with diarrhea that just wouldn't stop after being given this formula." For infants, virulent and long-term diarrhea is considered a serious and life-threatening event.

The infant formula referenced by Doak was supplemented with Martek Biosciences Corporation's laboratory-produced oils containing DHA and ARA. DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, and ARA, an omega-6 fatty acid, are naturally found in human breast milk and are considered important nutrients for infants.

But laboratory-produced DHASCO and ARASCO (Martek's names for their proprietary oils) are materially different from the fats found in a mother's breast milk. Martek's products are extracted from fermented algae and fungus, with the use of the neurotoxic solvent hexane. They contain only 40 to 50% DHA and ARA, with the balance from sunflower oil and other components, including some not found in human breast milk and never before a part of the human infant diet.

"It's true that DHA and ARA are important nutrients for developing infants--that's why they're found in human breast milk. But we have also seen that some infants are experiencing side effects like diarrhea from consuming the manufactured DHA and ARA oils in formula," says Jimi Francis, Ph.D., a biochemist specializing in DHA in infant nutrition at the Allie M. Lee Laboratory for Omega-3 Research at the University of Nevada at Reno. Also, humans produce DHA and ARA on their own from other fats.

The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm and food policy research group and corporate watchdog, presented its report, in partnership with the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy, to government officials and medical professionals at today's meeting of the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee.

"While infant formula manufacturers claim that these oils are perfectly safe and necessary for proper development, our report provides a more detailed picture," said Charlotte Vallaeys, Farm and Food Policy Analyst with the Cornucopia Institute and lead author of the report. "We investigated how a toxic chemical is used as processing agents in the manufacturing process, the inadequate testing for safety, and most importantly, how some infants are experiencing serious adverse reactions from formula supplemented with these oils," Vallaeys added.

"This report presents a disturbing look at the novel ingredients in infant formula," says Marsha Walker, Executive Director of the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy. "The FDA has received scores of adverse reports on effects of these ingredients, but, to date, the public's only access to these is through Cornucopia's Freedom of Information Act request. This report will help alert the health care community and federal agencies."

Cornucopia and the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy are now petitioning the FDA for a warning label alerting parents of the range of possible complications from DHA/ARA-supplemented formula.

For more, visit Cornucopia's website at http://www.cornucopia.org.


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SOURCE The Cornucopia Institute
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