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Kinda OT: DHA/ARA banned from Organic Formulas

Posted by on May. 24, 2010 at 12:11 PM
  • 9 Replies

http://www.babygooroo.com/index.php/2010/05/23/usda-calls-for-removal-of-dhaara-from-organic-formula/

USDA Calls For Removal Of DHA/ARA From Organic Formula

May 23, 2010 by Heidi Green

baby bottle-feedingNatural. Pure. Wholesome. Good. Those are the words that come to mind when I see the “USDA organic” seal. At a time when we are all more mindful of the dangers of pesticides and chemicals in the foods we eat, it’s reassuring to see the small green-and-white emblem that means you don’t need to worry–this product is natural and good for you.

However, a recent ban of synthetic fats commonly found in some organic products raises serious questions about such thinking. A statement on the ban was recently issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and will impact infant formula and other foods that contain the synthetic additives widely known as DHA and ARA. As reported by the Washington Post last year and last month, these synthetic oils were added to a list of non-organic ingredients allowed into organic products through a decision by a Bush administration official after discussion with a formula industry lobbyist and over the objections of several USDA employees who had determined such action a violation of federal standards. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and organics expert Kathleen Merrigan acknowledges that the synthetic oils should not be allowed in organic foods. New guidelines will be developed by the USDA. The process will include a 60-day period for public comment, and could take a year or longer.

What does this mean for parents?
The changes that result from the USDA’s decision may be noticed first by parents who feed their children formula, since the synthetic oils currently are added to nearly all infant formulas. In fact, except for some prescription formulas, the Cornucopia Institute notes that “only one over-the-counter formula is available without synthetic DHA/ARA.” Every other formula on the market includes them. The USDA’s decision ensures that more infant formulas will be available without DHA and ARA.

While the USDA does not, in its statement, challenge the safety of the additives, others do. For years, the Cornucopia Institute and the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy (NABA) have questioned the appropriateness and safety of adding these substances to infant formula and other foods.

Its report, “Replacing Mother – Imitating Human Breast Milk in the Laboratory,” is an examination of the synthetic oils from production to inclusion in formula, a caution about reports of side effects experienced by infants who consume them, and a look at relevant federal policies.

Why include DHA/ARA in formula?
DHA and ARA are polyunsaturated fats naturally found in human milk. In recent years, these fatty acids have received heightened attention in both the laboratory and the media as a result of ongoing controversy about healthy levels of fish intake for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Authorities have agreed that the fatty acids are important for brain, neural, and eye development; as discussion turned to how much DHA and ARA pregnant and breastfeeding women should consume for their infants’ health, formula companies saw a marketing opportunity. If they included synthetic versions of these oils (manufactured under the names DHASCO and ARASCO) in infant formula, the companies could assuage parents’ concerns about their baby’s development while suggesting that formula is “as close as ever to breast milk.” As noted in a Martek investment promotion from 1996 (and quoted in the Cornucopia Institute’s report), “Even if [the DHA/ARA blend] has no benefit, we think it would be widely incorporated into formulas, as a marketing tool and to allow companies to promote their formula as ‘closest to human milk.’”

In fact, leading formula manufacturer Mead Johnson admits on its Enfamil website that numerous scientific studies have shown little or no benefit to infant development, lending support to the theory that inclusion of these oils is just a marketing gimmick—much like the inclusion of prebiotics.

Unfortunately, it seems to be an effective gimmick. The percentage of people who agreed that “infant formula and breastfeeding are equally good ways of feeding an infant” doubled from 12 percent to 24 percent between 2003 and 2004, when the formula companies began advertising their supplemented formulas.

What is the cause for concern?
There are several causes for concern about the synthetic DHA and ARA added to formula and other foods and beverages.

First, parents should be aware that even though their infant formula may be labeled “USDA organic,” the process by which these additives are made is about as far from natural as possible. Martek Biosciences Corporation, extracts the oils from fermented algae and fungus with the use of a synthetic solvent hexane, a neurotoxic chemical. It’s possible that hexane residues evaporate before the oils are consumed, but according to the Cornucopia Institute’s report, tests have shown that hexane residues do appear in some edible oils. We don’t know the effects of hexane on health, but organics experts feel that the process would cause the National Organics Standards Board to deny the inclusion of these synthetic fats on the list of allowable additives to organic foods. Fats produced in this way hardly sound like the sorts of things parents who are shopping organic want to feed their children.

Second, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not affirmed the safety of the synthetic oils, noting that “[s]ome studies have reported unexpected deaths among infants who consumed formula supplemented with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids … attributed to SIDS, sepsis or necrotizing enterocolitis. Also, some studies have reported adverse events and other morbidities including diarrhea, flatulence, jaundice, and apnea in infants fed long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.”

Unlike the natural DHA and ARA in breast milk, many infants are unable to digest the synthetic oils. The FDA has received what NABA Executive Director Marsha Walker calls “scores of reports on the adverse effects of these ingredients,” in which infants experience gastrointestinal symptoms ranging in severity from vomiting and diarrhea that cleared up when the baby switched to a non-DHA/ARA formula to severe dehydration and seizures that required hospitalization. Still, infant formula manufacturers have resisted calls for the addition of “warning labels” to product packages. As a result, parents cannot make informed decisions about the risks of DHA/ARA formula relative to other feeding options, and they often don’t know that their children’s health problems can be solved by switching to a formula without these additives.

Recommendations
What can parents do?

  • Be aware of the risks. If you are feeding your child a formula that contains DHA and ARA, keep an eye out for possible gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting or diarrhea. If the symptoms persist, talk with your baby’s doctor about switching to another formula, but know that there are few DHA/ARA-free formulas available.
  • Share information with other parents. Across the board, parents whose children experience adverse effects of the formula say they had no idea that could be the cause. Until the FDA decides to require warning labels we can spread the word to other parents, so they can be aware too.
  • Contact policymakers. The USDA will have a 60-day public comment period before it issues its final guidelines about the inclusion of additives in organic infant formula. Let the USDA’s decision makers know what you think on this topic. In addition, leading DHA/ARA manufacturer Martek Biosciences has already indicated that it will petition the National Organic Standards Board to allow the fatty acids into organic food.
  • Contact formula and food manufacturers. Tell them you purchase only products that do not include these synthetic fats. If your family members have suffered side effects from the ingestion, talk about that; if you object to the manufacturing process, explain that. Since companies want to manufacture products that will sell, they should listen to consumer feedback.
  • Breastfeed! If you want to provide your baby with DHA and ARA, there is no safer way than from human milk.
by on May. 24, 2010 at 12:11 PM
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Replies (1-9):
Gruntlings
by on May. 24, 2010 at 12:13 PM

I saw that article. Unfortunately the USDA is only calling for the removal of the oils from "organic" formulas. And on the basis that they do not meet the requirements for the "organic" label. 

tabi_cat1023
by Group Admin -Tabitha on May. 24, 2010 at 12:27 PM

I know, it should be banned from all formulas, but this is a step in the right direction.  Its banned in Europe and for good reason.  Darn Hexane

Wife2003
by on May. 24, 2010 at 12:38 PM
Good!!!! They tried to give me pre-natals with that crap in it!!!! I was like um your NUTS if u think I'm ingesting that!!!
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Gruntlings
by on May. 24, 2010 at 2:17 PM


Quoting Wife2003:

Good!!!! They tried to give me pre-natals with that crap in it!!!! I was like um your NUTS if u think I'm ingesting that!!!

You can get pre-natals that have fish oils (mercury free), instead of the Martek oils. Muuuch better option, IMO :)

catholicmamamia
by on May. 24, 2010 at 3:15 PM

Nice try for the USDA.. how about removing that junk from ALL formula. Or better yet, do a major overhaul of all ingredients. Tip of the iceberg.... 

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teachermama81
by on May. 24, 2010 at 3:25 PM

ywp this.  while i feel that formula is a medical intervention (love that term) i strongly feel that when it is necessary it should be good and healthy for kiddos...sorry one handed while pumping :)

Quoting catholicmamamia:

Nice try for the USDA.. how about removing that junk from ALL formula. Or better yet, do a major overhaul of all ingredients. Tip of the iceberg.... 


Army_Wife41
by on May. 24, 2010 at 3:30 PM

This.

As a woman who has had trouble producing enough milk from day one of having a child....I hate not having a better alternative to the formulas available. When I go through so much to give my kids as much breastmilk as possible....why should I be practically forced to supplement with such...icky stuff.

Considering most women give up on breastfeeding so early...or jsut choose to formula feed from the start...you would think someone would be trying really hard to improve formula. But considering it is really difficult to even get good support for breastfeeding from your child's pedi...I guess I am expecting too much of these people.

Quoting catholicmamamia:

Nice try for the USDA.. how about removing that junk from ALL formula. Or better yet, do a major overhaul of all ingredients. Tip of the iceberg.... 


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tabi_cat1023
by Group Admin -Tabitha on May. 24, 2010 at 3:40 PM

Pedis often get kickbacks from formula companies..which should be illegal.

Its becuase so many women use formula and refuse to admit that its inferior and poor quality that formula does NOT get changed.  Its gonna take a serious issue like what happened in China with the melamine for a change to be made.

I would have alot less issues with formula if it were made better and safer.

Quoting Army_Wife41:

This.

As a woman who has had trouble producing enough milk from day one of having a child....I hate not having a better alternative to the formulas available. When I go through so much to give my kids as much breastmilk as possible....why should I be practically forced to supplement with such...icky stuff.

Considering most women give up on breastfeeding so early...or jsut choose to formula feed from the start...you would think someone would be trying really hard to improve formula. But considering it is really difficult to even get good support for breastfeeding from your child's pedi...I guess I am expecting too much of these people.

Quoting catholicmamamia:

Nice try for the USDA.. how about removing that junk from ALL formula. Or better yet, do a major overhaul of all ingredients. Tip of the iceberg.... 



Gruntlings
by on May. 24, 2010 at 7:13 PM

Women who use formula tend to become defensive and refuse to admit that it's anything less than wonderful. Without formula users pushing for it to be made better, it will never be made better because the only people that seem to think it's anything other than liquid manufactured gold... are breastfeeders. And formula companies really don't care much about us after they realize we're not prone to sabotage. 

It's sad. 

Sorry you're stuck supplementing with something you dislike. :( 

This is the reason I became a milk donor, despite having a horrible output to the pump. Because I feel that women should have more choices than what they have.

Quoting Army_Wife41:

This.

As a woman who has had trouble producing enough milk from day one of having a child....I hate not having a better alternative to the formulas available. When I go through so much to give my kids as much breastmilk as possible....why should I be practically forced to supplement with such...icky stuff.

Considering most women give up on breastfeeding so early...or jsut choose to formula feed from the start...you would think someone would be trying really hard to improve formula. But considering it is really difficult to even get good support for breastfeeding from your child's pedi...I guess I am expecting too much of these people.

Quoting catholicmamamia:

Nice try for the USDA.. how about removing that junk from ALL formula. Or better yet, do a major overhaul of all ingredients. Tip of the iceberg.... 



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