Beware Of Imported Killer Baby Formula

Posted by Cosmas Asogwa On Saturday, February 16, 2013 0 comments

Bosede Olusola-Obasa investigates a brand of imported infant formula, recently declared unfit for babies

Background: The penchant for imported baby milk formula by some Nigerian mothers has to do with status and the idea that it makes babies grow chubby Saturday Punch has learnt. Hear this:
“I prefer imported baby food brands because I believe they offer greater quality for my baby. Besides, I can afford them. I work hard because I want to give my children the best of everything in life. So, if I cannot fulfil the six months exclusive beastfeeding standard because I have to work; then I owe my baby the best milk substitute,” said Mrs. Bimpe Kolawole, a banker in Lagos.
The mother of three believes that those who patronise Nigerian brands do so because they cannot afford anything better.

For some mothers especially the working class, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life is difficult to achieve. In the absence of a labour law that backs working class mothers like them, they inevitably resort to getting quality imported baby food as a close substitute for breast milk when they away at work. Usually, they breastfeed the child exclusively for two months and introduce the baby milk in the third month so that he can get used to the substitute before my maternity leave is over,

Meanwhile, UNICEF advocates exclusive breast feeding for the first six months of life. Its website noted, “There has been significant reliable evidence produced over recent years to show that breast feeding has important advantages for both infant and mother.” UNICEF, which advocates exclusive breastfeeding, says that mothers who must bottle feed their children have to observe utmost health safety rules to prevent babies from falling victim to poor quality content as is currently the case with Wakodo Baby Milk Formula, an imported brand in Nigeria.

Wakodo Baby Milk Formula was on Monday declared unwholesome by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control in an advertorial. Produced by Wakodo, a Japanese company, it is meant for infants from zero to nine months old. The advertorial said in part, “The unwholesome baby food contains small particles of plastic film measuring about 2×2 centimeters in the packs.”

NAFDAC noted that the manufacturer of the baby food had so far recalled about 75,000 packs of the unwholesome product. The agency thus warned the public that the plastic film particles in the baby food could injure a baby’s tender alimentary canal. It added, “NAFDAC hereby strongly advises the general public to be on the alert and report any suspected case of the ‘Wakodo Baby Milk Formula’ in circulation to the nearest NAFDAC office or call its published numbers.”
When our correspondent called the NAFDAC Director, Public Relations, Abubakar Jimoh on the issue, he confirmed the position of the agency on the advert. Meanwhile, Saturday PUNCH’s independent research established the fact that Wakodo infant milk is capable of affecting the functioning of a baby’s thyroid gland.
It found that in August 2012, the Chinese government banned Wakodo and Morinaga infant formulas, produced by the same company. The Chinese government directed parents to stop feeding their babies who are under six months old with Wakodo and Morinaga formulas, following clinical tests that established that the iodine content of the two products fell below international standards.
Chinese authorities also feared they could cause irreversible damage to infant development.
Scientists say iodine deficiency can affect the production of thyroid hormones. The World Health Organisation’s recommended minimum intake of iodine for infants is said to be 110 micrograms a day for infants up to six months and 130 micrograms a day for infants seven to 12 months.
“The Centre for Food Safety tested the first group of 14 popular brands of milk powder and discovered that at least, six samples had iodine levels below the standard set by codex. Iodine in the two Japanese brands, Wakodo and Morinaga, is less than one-third of the standard,” an online report stated.
It was learnt that the Japanese-made baby formula accounted for about three per cent of the total milk brands distributed in Hong Kong, while the producers of Wakodo and Morinaga formula said the products were not intended for sale in Hong Kong, which had different requirements for iodine content than Japan.
“We presume that local importers are marketing it there. When we export our products, we make them compatible with the standards of countries in which they are sold,” the company’s spokeswoman Natsumi Takahashi told Agence France Presse.
Checks by Saturday PUNCH showed that the Japanese government, does not allow manufacturers to add iodine to powdered milk products, which may however contain some iodine from other ingredients.
The manufacturer, Wakodo Company, says of itself on its website, “Wakodo is a long-established baby products manufacturer in Japan. It is the first company in Japan to develop and introduce baby and infant milk powder in 1917.
“Since the introduction, the company continues to improve its products and to make their milk powder closer to the quality of ‘mother’s milk’ that is the ideal milk for babies through research and development. We have a wide range of high-quality Japan-made baby products. Wakodo baby/infant milk powder received best product award at Food Action NIPPON AWARD 2009.”
Meanwhile, the Medical Director/Chief Executive Officer, Alimosho General Hospital Lagos, Dr. Bolaji Adebiyi, said the consumption of such unwholesome milk is very injurious to babies’ health.
Adebiyi told Saturday PUNCH that even the digestive system of an adult could not handle plastic film particles.
He also warned mothers to desist from giving baby formula to babies under six months.
He said, “The unwholesome milk can affect the general development of the baby. It can also cause cancer.
“But we advise people to stick to six months exclusive breastfeeding recommendation. I wonder why a mother would choose to spare the breast that is nourishing and opt for baby formula. Breast milk is complete food for infant and contains anti bodies needed by the baby.”
When asked about inability of mothers with multiple births to practise exclusive breastfeeding, Adebiyi said that was no excuse.
He said if the mother is willing she can care for even a set of triplets.
“The two breasts will feed the babies well. All she needs is to eat well and take a lot of fluid and she will lactate well,” he stated.
He said that only mothers with HIV are advised not to breast feed their babies for obvious reasons.
“But even that is now subject to debate because the baby may still be at risk through unhygienic ways of handling the feeding kits.
“If a mother is HIV positive she is encouraged to use baby formula. Such babies are 30 per cent at risk of transmission during pregnancy; 30 per cent during delivery and 30 per cent through breast feeding.
“All three stages can be controlled by administering  requisite medicare on the mother. So we advocate exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life if the mother is not HIV positive,” he added.

CULLED SATURDAY PUNCH

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