NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 6, 2005

Self-styled public-health activists often pursue issues that are surrogates for their real agenda. One example is the continuing attack on infant formula.

The United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO) soon will vote on whether to require prominent warnings that pathogenic microorganisms are present in infant formula. The principal supporters of such labeling -- including scientific and medical powerhouses -- claim using infant formula can lead to malnutrition, respiratory infections and possibly cause death.

Henry I. Miller, physician and molecular biologist, says the activists' underlying agenda is not the well-being of mothers or babies, but discrediting multinational food producers. The allegations about infant formula are a mosaic of misrepresentations and half-truths:

  • Formula is a safe and effective alternative when breast feeding is impossible or impractical, but most bottle feeding in developing countries employs inferior and insufficiently nutritious substitutes, such as sugar or rice water, tea, cow's milk or cassava flour and water.
  • Like other foods bought at the grocery store, formula preparations are clean but not sterile, meaning they may contain harmless microorganisms, like in the air we breathe, whereas drugs like injectable vaccines and intravenous fluids are completely sterile.
  • According to UN statistics, up to 20 percent of infants born to HIV-positive mothers may acquire HIV through breast-feeding and with the spread of HIV rampant in the developing world, it is especially important to prevent mother-to-child transmission through breast milk.

In recent years, says Miller, major multinational producers of infant formula have been extremely responsible in their sales and marketing policies by adhering to strict WHO guidelines and aggressively providing objective information about the benefits of breast feeding and the proper way to provide complementary nutrition.

Source: Henry I. Miler (Hoover Institution), ?Infant Formula Ambush,? Washington Times, May 26, 2005.


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