Food Safety Focus (77th Issue, December 2012) – Food Incident Highlight
Nutrient Content of Infant Formulae
Last month, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) found the biotin content in two infant formulae below the requirement of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) while the potassium and protein content of another infant formula was found exceeding the maximum values stated in the standard. Adverse health effects cannot be ruled out for infants less than six months old whose intake of nutrients relies solely on the concerned products. Therefore, the CFS instructed the importer to stop sale and recall the concerned products. Food alerts have been issued to inform the public.
Biotin is a kind of vitamin involved in energy and amino acid metabolism, as well as fat and glycogen synthesis. It is an important element of breastmilk and is also widely distributed in many foods such as liver, kidney, egg yolk, vegetables and cereals. Biotin-deficient infants may show symptoms such as hair loss, skin rash and decreased muscle tone. However, overt dietary biotin deficiency is rare and it has not been found in breastfed infants.
Potassium is essential in maintaining the body's electrolyte balance and normal cellular function, whereas protein is mainly used for growth and body repair. Although currently no international standards have been set by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the maximum daily intake of potassium or protein for infants below six months old, epidemiological studies suggested that excessive intake of potassium and protein may increase the renal load of infants, posing a health risk to them as their kidney function is not fully developed.
The CFS will continue the testing on the nutritional composition in infant and follow-up formulae available in the local market. Consumers who have purchased the concerned products should stop feeding their infants with these products and switch to other infant formulae. Parents should consult medical professionals if in doubt about their infants' health. Breastmilk is the ideal natural food for the healthy growth and development of infants. Parents are advised to follow WHO's recommendation on exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infant should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.