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Commercial Interests Driving Standards for Formula Milk

Armen Hareyan's picture

Standards for infant milk formula

Commercial interests may be the strongest driver of what goes into formula milk, warn child health experts in this week's BMJ.

Professors Berthold Koletzko and Raanan Shamir describe a meeting in Bonn, Germany in November 2005 to revise the standard on infant formula. The meeting involved government delegations, non-governmental organizations, and other groups with commercial interests in infant formula.

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Infant formula must meet very high quality standards. The Codex Alimentarius Commission, part of both the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, develops standards and guidelines on food to protect consumers' health and to ensure fair trade practices globally.

Three scientific reviews all agree that the safe level of infant formula protein should be based on a recognised nitrogen conversion factor. In Bonn, however, the International Dairy Federation demanded that the proportion of protein in formula derived from cows' milk should be based on a larger nitrogen conversion factor.

Even though no scientific arguments were put forward to justify the federation's request, and it would falsely indicate that cow's milk protein is superior to human milk protein, it got support from several member states with strong dairy industries.

While the industry argues that using the lower nitrogen conversion factor would lead to a loss of some