Past press releases and
articles on contaminants and infant feeding available on the Baby Milk
Update 5 April 2004
here to download the leaflet: Towards Healthy Environments for
Children: Frequently asked questions about breastfeeding in a contaminated
Follow the links for the
full text of documents.
Seeing behind the headlines about 'toxins in breastmilk'.
Baby Milk Action comment
on Tonight with Trevor McDonald, Contaminants in breastmilk 8pm, Monday
April 5th, ITV1.
This programme provided a
useful source of information on how parents could reduce sources of
chemical contamination in the home but failed to take a balanced look
at this vital issue. It will almost certainly generate alarmist headlines
all over the world. Breastfeeding is a sensitive process which is very
easily disrupted and a multi-billion dollar baby food industry is poised
to exploit these concerns. Alarmist headlines have an especially damaging
impact in developing countries where the decision whether to breastfeed
or bottle feed is a matter of life or death.
The programme several times
mentioned that breastfeeding is best but failed to explain why it was
especially so in relation to contamination. For example it did not explain
that the chemicals received before birth are a more fundamental threat
to the development of the child than at any other period: that contamination
occurs before conception, from damage done to fathers semen, and during
pregnancy when the baby is in the womb. Most of the damage is done by
the time the infant is born but the programme gave the opposite impression.
Hardly anything was said about how breastmilk helps the child develop
a stronger immune system which protects against environmental pollutants
and pathogens and can counteract the adverse developmental effects of
PCBs and dioxins limiting the damage caused by fetal exposure.
Baby Milk Action is part
of an international network of citizens groups called, the International
Baby Food Action Network, with over 200 groups in 100 countries. We
strongly believe that parents have the right to accurate and balanced
information, and we regularly cover the issue of contamination in our
publications (see examples on this page and the leaflet Towards
Healthy Environments for Children). We work with environmental and
public interest groups to create healthier environments and ensure that
levels of toxic contamination are reduced. To comment on the television
programme, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- the risks for infant health
Summer 2003 - Update Newsletter
Sensational stories about toxins in breastmilk can have an adverse impact
on breastfeeding - particular when headlines are repeated around the
world without risks being put in context. All experts agree that breastfeeding
remains the best option for infants. Toxins are often measured in breastmilk
because it is an easier way to access fat-soluble contaminants than
sampling body fat. Some environmental campaigners have become concerned
at the negative impact of their message calling for controls of dangerous
chemicals has had on undermining breastfeeding and have changed their
messages. Others - including one linked to Nestlé part-owned
L'Oreal - suggest breastmilk is poisonous to shock. See two approaches
in this report.
Summary of IBFAN Statement
on Breastfeeding and Dioxins
June 2001 - Update Newsletter
There are an increasing number of media reports about the problems caused
by dioxins. Dioxins are environmental contaminants found mainly in the
food chain, so they are absorbed by humans. Dioxins are stored in body
fat and are extremely persistent. Absorption takes place mainly through
the food we eat but also through the air we breathe. Breastmilk is often
cited as a source of dioxins - but this is because fat soluable contaminants
are relatively easily measured in breastmilk, not because breastmilk
is any more contaminated than other body parts.
Full IBFAN statement:
Scare stories again
December 1999 - Update newsletter
A report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) was published at the
launch of World Breastfeeding Week and created scare stories around
the world. WWF wanted to highlight the risk of environmental contaminants,
which accumulate in body fats and are most readily measured in breastmilk,
which has a high fat content. Despite the fact that the report noted
falling levels and the greater transmission of toxins in-utero, breastfeeding
scare stories resulted in many countries. Baby Milk Action received
anxious calls from health workers working to protect breastfeeding and
infant health, in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and India.
Perhaps WWF can learn from UNICEF who conducted a similar review of
existing research in 1997. The UNICEF paper, Breastfeeding and Environmental
Contamination, did not look at breastfeeding in isolation and cited
a study which estimates that 'about three days of life expectancy would
be lost because of cancer attributable to contaminant exposure through
breastmilk. In contrast the decrease life expectancy from not breastfeeding
was about 70 days'. UNICEF's paper is available from Baby Milk Action,
or UNICEF Nutrition Section, 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA.
Cut pollution - not breastfeeding
16th July 1999 - Press Release
The report Chemical Trespass: A Toxic Legacy published recently by the
World Wildlife Fund highlights environmental pollution by focusing on
the levels in breastmilk. The report is a review of existing research
and, while highlighting the levels of pollutants, " WWF insists that
it is still better for babies to be breast-fed than not."
Good news on breastfeeding
shows the effectiveness of environmental campaigning
14 May 1997 - Information for the press from Baby Milk Action and Women's
The UK Government Committee on Toxicity today (14th May 1997) announced
a 30% fall in the levels of Dioxins in breastmilk reflecting a general
lowering of levels throughout Europe. Research in Germany shows that
PCB and Dioxin levels are down by 50%(1). The news illustrates the effectiveness
of campaigning on environmental issues and the wisdom of policies which
aim to phase out persistent chemicals rather than attempting to regulate
and control their use.
Contaminants also impact on artificial feeding
WHO warns of intrinsic
contamination of infant formula
March 2004 - Update newsletter
The long-awaited United Nations expert meeting on the bacteria Enterobacter
Sakazakii in tins of powdered infant formula has concluded that: intrinsic
contamination of powdered infant formula with E.sakazakii and Salmonella
has been a cause of infection and illness in infants including severe
disease, and can lead to serious developmental sequelae (health consequences)
and death and that E Sakazakii is more commonly found
in the manufacturing environment, which is a potential source of post-pasteurization
contamination. The meeting (organised by the Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation in Geneva 2-5 February
2004) agreed that caregivers should be regularly alerted to the fact
that powdered infant formula is not a sterile product and that guidelines
should be developed to advise on how best to limit the risk of infection.
For two years, since the tragic baby death in Belgium in March 2002
(see Update 31), we have been pressing for this problem to be addressed
by Codex (the United Nations food standards setting body), WHO
and national authorities.
The lack of surveillance
in most countries probably explains why the reported frequency of the
disease appears to be very low. However, the disease is devastating.
Once infection has occurred, mortality rates are between 20%-50%, with
significant long-term effects in the form of neurological deficiencies,
especially among those with severe meningitis and cerebritis.
An Executive summary and
Question and Answer paper is on the WHO website (www.who.int/foodsafety/micro/7meetings/feb2004/en/7
- amended several times in the light of IBFAN and other comments). How
to alert parents and care-givers is not yet addressed. The conclusions
will be forwarded to the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene which meets
in Washington in March (for Codex papers and dates see: www.codexalimentarius.com).
Dangers from plastic feeding
November 2000 - Update newsletter
A report published by the World Wildlife Fund highlights the dangers
of some plastic feeding bottles because of exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA)
- an industrial chemical used to manufacture polycarbonate and other
plastic items. The level of exposure in a bottle-fed infant is less
than the tolerable daily intake, but greater than the quantity found
to cause effects in studies on animals. WWF are particularly concerned
about younger infants, perhaps using their siblings' bottles which are
older and have had more exposure to dishwashing and bottle brushing.
Manufacturers are asked to include advice to consumers on the label
to change bottles every 6 months. WWF adds that "a change to safer materials
And now ESBOs
December 1999 - Update newsletter
EU limits for pesticides in baby foods were also adopted in March, but
will not come fully into effect until July 2002 (1999/50/EC). There
are no set limits on other contaminants in baby foods, so parents will
remain in the dark about levels of lead, cadmium, etc. Now it seems
that an oil in the seal of the lids of baby food jars could cause a
problem. Government tests found toxic contamination from epoxidised
soya bean oil (ESBO) in 48% of samples. Although there is no immediate
health risk, infants should not eat products with the same high level
of ESBO all the time. Companies have been asked to reduce ESBO levels.
(This is the complete article).
UK Panic over Phthalates
in baby foods
August 1996 - Update newsletter
Consumer confidence in the safety of UK food was badly damaged by the
BSE and beef crisis. It plummeted further in May when news broke that
9 brands of baby milk on sale in the UK were contaminated with phthalates
- man-made chemicals which have been linked with cancer and a lowering
of sperm count. For weeks afterwards the Baby Milk Action office was
flooded with media enquiries and calls from alarmed and anxious parents.
While we did not want to exacerbate the situation, we were placed in
a difficult situation - knowing that the problem with phthalates is
only one of a long line of concerns that exist about formula milks.