UN calls for better Chinese regulation of infant foods in tainted formula crisis

25 September 2008
A mother breastfeeds her baby

United Nations agencies today called for better regulation of foods for infants and young children in China in light of the contaminated infant formula crisis, reiterating their insistence that breast milk should be used exclusively for the first six months of life.

“Whilst any attempt to deceive the public in the area of food production and marketing is unacceptable, deliberate contamination of foods intended for consumption by vulnerable infants and young children is particularly deplorable,” the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO) Offices in China said in a joint statement.

Melamine-contaminated formula produced by Sanlu and other companies has caused more than 6,000 cases of kidney stones in infants and three deaths across the country.

“We are confident that swift and firm actions are being taken by China’s food safety authorities to investigate this incident fully,” the statement said. “We also expect that following the investigation and in the context of the Chinese Government’s increasing attention to food safety, better regulation of foods for infants and young children will be enforced.”

Noting that global health authorities agree that breast milk is unquestionably better for infant feeding than any formula, the agencies stressed that no formula contains the perfect combination of proteins, carbohydrates and fats to enhance infant growth and brain development as breast milk does.

“No infant formula contains antibodies to protect against infection as breast milk does. No infant formula is as safe to administer as breast milk is. And no infant formula is as affordable to families as breast milk is, providing the perfect nutrition for infants while protecting them from infections,” they said.

Ideally, all infants should be fed exclusively with breast milk for the first six months of life, receiving thereafter adequate and safe complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed up to at least the age of two years.

Working mothers who cannot breastfeed during working hours can express breast milk and save it in a clean container for feeding the child whilst she is away, they added. Breast milk can be stored safely for up to eight hours at room temperature.

 

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