Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Biopiracy of Human Milk


                         "The present invention provides for novel peptides
                           derived from human milk...the peptides of the in-
                           vention may be used in food supplements, milk
                           substitutions, infant formula, mother's milk,
                           parenteral nutrition solutions, cell/tissue/organ
                           storage and perfusion solutions and pharmaceutical
                           formulations."--US Patent # 8518894 "Human Milk Peptides"

Where is the outrage?  Hidden somewhere inside this woman, who feels useless against the growing tide of control, arrogance, and profit seeking by men and women living in the Ivory Tower of Knowledge.  Where is the legal system when biotech companies, researchers and government institutions declare their monopolies, their right to a substance made by women that was and is responsible for the survival of our species?  How do we call this invention?

For thousands of years, women passed down to each new generation the knowledge and the art of breastfeeding.  This knowledge meant survival for its babies and children.  They recognized the food value as well as the medicinal properties of the substance that flowed from their breasts.  They did not call it invention or exclude others from this knowledge.  

But now we live in a world, where men and women of science, believe that nature can be owned.  From the seeds that blow in the wind to the human cells in our bodies, the belief is that life can be owned, monopolized, and made profitable.  Is not ownership of life, slavery?  Our plant seeds have become the workhorse of companies like Monsanto.  Our cells have become the foundation of profits for the pharmaceutical industry.  Likewise human milk, its components, are ensnared by a system of corporate greed.  The system creates a reason for this form of enslavement by deceit.  Donate your milk for science (so we can prove that human milk is better than infant formula--already known by scientists for at least 40 years).  Donate your milk for sick and premature babies--don't ask why these babies aren't getting their own mother's milk or being breastfed.  Yes, dear reader, I know that some women can't breastfeed and that some women won't breastfeed.  And I know that some women can't pump their milk and that some women won't pump.  But the question is why has this happened?  How much of our society is invested in the idea that women can't or won't breastfeed?  The investment is in the industries that promote and market their wares because of this ideology of can't and won't breastfeed.   The investment is not in empowering women to breastfeed.  It is in psychologically conditioning through social marketing the idea that society cannot be changed.  Women have to adapt to a man's world. A society ruled by mostly men whose core value is profit.   A world where babies and children must be separated from their mothers (and fathers).  We live in a world where not earning a paycheck is looked down upon.  An odd idea, since the economic downturn that is still upon us has thrown so many onto the streets without a hope for employment.

Dear reader, please explain to me why the above patent called, "Human milk peptides," is legal in our US patent system?  This is a relatively new patent dated August 27, 2013 in which the  Canadian inventors propose that there is,  "a need for new compounds derived from mother's milk that provide antioxidant advantages and may be used as ingredients to mothers' milk substitutes."  They state in their patent, "the present invention relates to novel peptides that are derived from human milk."  They may genetically engineer those peptides but they may use the real peptides.  They obtained their human milk samples from "volunteer mothers whose milk was expressed."  Where did they find these volunteer mothers and were the mothers given informed consent regarding the possibility of patents and financial profits?  

What is biopiracy?  A dictionary defines it as, "the commercial exploitation or monopolization of biological or genetic material usually without compensation to indigenous peoples or countries."  So is the patenting of human milk biopiracy?  It is certainly the commercial exploitation of a biological or genetic material without compensation.  It is destructive to the biodiversity of human milk.  Donor milk is a pooled substance that is pasteurized.  Thus circumventing the value of human milk as not only a species specific milk but a milk that is genetically specific for the mother's baby.  Pooled human milk would be better than the dairy substitute we call infant formula but it defeats the purpose of the protective/antibody system.  A system that responds to the mother's immediate environment protecting the infant from the specific pathogens and chemicals the mother encounters.

The patents and patent applications on human milk components are stating the desire to use human milk components in the production of infant formula.  So essentially this means that mothers who refuse to breastfeed will get a product that has the genetic material of various human milk components.  Those components will have to be sterile, without life.  Or those components will be genetically engineered, an experiment.  There is no public discussion, this will just happen because men and women of science can declare that they have invented a human milk component and it will lower the risk of the infant formula that they plan to manufacture.  Regulation of infant formula is in the hands of various government institutions.  Will it be regulated?  Do these government institutions even know what is going on?  And if they know, why isn't their public discussions?

Like dairy cows, women will donate they milk and let industries make their fortunes.  Women don't know or they don't understand the value of the milk they are providing.  They give it away or are given minimal compensation.  Profits will be made on a natural resource.  Breastfeeding is food security for the impoverished.  It is food security for those trapped in natural and man-made disasters.  Breastfeeding is freedom from dependency. 

This situation is a reminder of what happened to John Moore and Henrietta Lacks whose cells were taken from them to make enormous profits.  Henrietta Lacks was an African American tobacco farmer who was diagnosed in 1951 with a malignant tumor of the cervix.  Her cells were used to develop the polio vaccine and have been used world-wide in research:  cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.  The HeLa cells is well know in research.  There was no informed consent when those cells were taken and Henrietta Lacks died that same year. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren only learned about those cells and its profitability about 15 years ago.

John Moore had his spleen removed in 1976 because of hairy cell-leukemia.  A cell line was created by his doctor and was very profitable.  Informed consent was not provided at the time and John Moore became suspicious of the doctor's motives because of the many office visits to donate blood, tissues, etc.  He sued and the case went all the way up to the California Supreme Court in a case called Moore v. Regents of the University of California in 1990.  He lost that decision.  The Court determined that Moore, "had no right to any share of the profits from commericalization."

There is a very interesting NY times article entitled, "Taking the Least of You" on the tissue-industrial complex (human milk is considered a tissue and state regulated in California, NY, Maryland, and Texas). Although not about human milk, is relevant to an understanding of the issues of collecting human tissues. It discusses how "researchers have become entrepreneurs."  And it explains the Moore case as well as other cases.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/16/magazine/16tissue.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

How many women who donate they milk are given informed consent?  How much of the donor milk given to non-profits like HMBANA goes to researchers who patent or who are connected to the infant formula and drug companies?  What should be the ethical obligations of non-profits and for-profit milk banks?  Why isn't this a public discussion?  Why are most breastfeeding organizations reluctant to address these issues?  Is this what women want for the future?  Or should not the commitment be to creating a world where breastfeeding is promoted, protected through the law, and supported by society?
 Copyright 2014 Valerie W. McClain

"The deeper you can manipulate living structures the more you can control food and medicine."--Vandana Shiva

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"I support you" campaign: public health risks vs. lifestyle choices


                                      "Jarvisalo et al. (2009) have concluded that adult
                            men who have been breastfed have better brachial 
                            endothelial function compared to men who have
                            been formula fed." --Nestle patent application #
                            20140044830 entitled, "Infant Formula for use in the
                            Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases."

There is a public relation campaign entitled, "I support you."  This campaign is about infant feeding and the belief that all mothers need support.  I agree with supporting others during parenting trials and tribulations because mothering/parenting is a tough job.  It has its moments of sheer joy, fun and love.  It has its serious moments like staying up all night with a sick baby or child.  It has its moments of wonder, when a child shows us that our world is pretty amazing.  The new eyes of the child and their enthusiasm for everything uplifts us.  Their never-ending energy tires us beyond belief.  Parenting needs support.

But do we need a public relation campaign to support both breastfeeding and infant formula feeding? Infant formula blogs state that breastfeeding advocates are creating guilt and shame in formula feeding mothers.  These blogs state that formula feeding mothers are being bullied by health care professionals to breastfeed.  So they believe that we need a public campaign to support all mothers.  I would suggest that "all" really means that the support they are asking for is for infant formula feeding mothers.  I read one infant formula feeding blogger who voiced her depression and upset over World Breastfeeding Week.  I suppose that no longer having World Breastfeeding Week would show our support of all women? 

So I have a number of questions.  Is breastfeeding a health care decision that impacts the health and well-being of infants and mothers?  Or is this just a life-style choice?  The premise of this PR campaign seems to be that how we feed our babies is a life-style choice.  It is a choice of equal value and without risks.  Therefore it is important to protect the feelings of mothers who choose or cannot breastfeed.  

Is shame and guilt caused by others?  Can individuals control how others perceive life?  Feelings come and go, should we blame others for our grief, shame, guilt, sadness, depression.  Can other people fix our grief or our shame or guilt?  Or are these feelings resolved when a person accepts that emotions are self-generated and often fleeting.  Or the realization of the importance of building personal boundaries in which feelings of others do not control our personhood. 

If breastfeeding is a health care choice of great importance to the health and well-being of infants and mothers, then should we accept a PR campaign that essentially mutes the dangers of infant formula?  Would the PR campaign for stopping cigarette smoking include a "I support you," organization?  Or wouldn't we consider that absurd?  Or the PR health campaigns for "healthy eating" or "exercising" include "I support you," campaigns.  Is support about hiding the truth about health risks in order to make people feel better or is real love about telling the truth about health risks?  How will mothers feel in the future, when they realize that health care professionals kept quiet about the risks of infant formula in order to protect them from feeling bad about their decision?  

The patents and patent applications by the infant formula industry admit that their product is inferior.  Not just inferior but a substance that causes adverse effects in babies.  The patents and applications are about fixing the health problems that infant formula feeding causes.  So far they are still patenting because they can't eliminate the risks of artificial feeding.  The industry is trying to fix their product through genetic engineering (which has its unknown risks on a vulnerable population).

Nestle is busy patenting infant formulas to prevent obesity,heart disease, infections, etc.  And of course so are the other infant formula companies creating patents to prevent or treat the very health problems that artificial feeding causes in babies.  The real prevention is breastfeeding. 

Nestle's latest patent application on infant formula is about preventing cardiovascular diseases (associated with high blood pressure).  So they are changing the protein and lipid content of their formulas.  They believe that their invention will prevent "coronary heart disease, heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, hypertensive retinopathy, hypertensive encephalopathy, stroke, and kidney failure," in patients later in life.  So one must question whether Nestle has research that shows that before this invention, infant formula was the cause of all these health problems involving the heart.  Is one of the risks of infant formula, heart disease in adulthood???  Kidney failure?  Stroke?

Should the issue of health risks be about "feelings?"  Would health care organizations invest in PR campaigns to "Stand Up For Smokers?"  Smoking causes heart disease besides lung cancer and other cancers.  Not being breastfed puts an infant at higher risk for heart disease as well as various cancers.  Not being breastfed impacts the infant into adulthood.  

In "The Politics of Breastfeeding," Gabrielle Palmer states, "I know that stating these facts can be painful or even enraging to some women who have not breastfed their children, but the continued denial of the risks of not breastfeeding [I prefer the term risks of infant formula] and the value of breastmilk, supposedly to spare women's feelings, is a patronising deception."  and, "No women need feel guilty for 'failing' to breastfeed, though she has the right to feel angry or sad for being denied support and information when she needed it."  

How can we be so stuck on this theme of "shame and guilt?"  I think its time to let go of this "elephant in the room." The risks of infant formula are real and the patents and applications by the industry are the legal proof.  The truth has to be spoken and the consequences of speaking the truth means that some mothers will feel guilt or shame, sadness, and anger.  
Copyright 2014 Valerie W. McClain 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

"Breast milk is the right milk..."


                "Designed to shape the communication and academic
                 development of future pediatricians, Baylor College of 
                 Medicine and the North American Society for Pediatric 
                 Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (NASPGHAN)
                 provide training programs supported by the Nestle
                 Nutrition Institute."
                                        --Nestle Nutrition Institute Media Room

"Breast milk is the right milk...."  Who would think I got this sentence from a Nestle patent application (# 20120171178)?  If we were to advertise human milk, it would make a great slogan.  Yes, I know, I shortened the Nestle patent application statement.  The sentence reads, "Breast milk is the right milk for infants up to 12 months."  The name of this patent application is, "Nutritional Composition for Supporting Brain Development and Function of Children."  This is directed at children ages 3-6.  Their nutritional composition will include DHA/ARA, prebiotics and probiotics besides protein, carbohydrates, etc.  Its to improve cognitive performance, in particular memory, learning comprehension, etc.

DHA/ARA, prebiotics and probiotics are naturally found in human milk and the infant formula industry has been imitating these substances to create an infant formula more like human milk.  They want to improve the cognitive functions of formula fed infants.  Mead Johnson uses sialic acid.  In one patent application they state, "Specific components unique to human milk have the potential to support rapid brain growth.  In particular, sialic acids..." (patent application #20060247153 entitled, "Method of improving learning and memory in mammals.")  In a patent (#7867541, "Compositions and methods of formulation for enteral formulas containing sialic acid.) also owned by Mead Johnson they state, "While human breast milk contains substantial amounts of sialic acid, most infant formulas contain less than 25% of the sialic acid found in colostrum.  Moreover, 75% of the sialic acid in formulas is glycoprotein-bound, unlike human breast milk in which 75% of sialic acid is bound to oligosaccharides."

A patent owned by Vitaerx Pharmaceuticals (Texas), inventors Marian L. Kruzel et al. present a novel use of lactoferrin (a component in human milk, bovine milk has very little or none).  Lactoferrin will be use to treat "age related disorders in humans."  They will use lactoferrin to control oxidative stress which they believe can cause alzheimers, parkinsons, etc.  The patent mentions the use of lactoferrin to control oxidation in infant formula.  They mention a study done in 2000 in the J Agric Food Chem in which the researchers state, "Lactoferrin can be used, therefore, as a dual purpose additive in infant formulas and similar food products for its antioxidant and its antimicrobial properties."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11052766

Then there is a company from Israel called Enzymotec Ltd. that owns a patent entitled, "Glycerophospholipids containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and their use in the treatment and improvement of cognitive functions." (patent # 8052992) They will use their invention to treat various cognitive and mental conditions and Alzheimer's disease.  Yes, glycerophospholipids are naturally occurring in human milk fat.

Then there is a patent application from Swedish Orphan Biovitrum AB, entitled, "Method to Increase the Absorption of Unsaturated Fatty Acids by Human Infants." (application #20120100127)  Their invention is a recombinant human bile-salt-stimulated lipase (genetically engineered) to improve the visual and/or cognitive development of a human infant (particularly a preterm infant).  Yes, bile-salt-stimulated lipase is a component in human milk not found in cow's milk.

It appears that the infant formula and drug industry thinks that certain components in human milk improve brain function.  Meanwhile some researchers that have gotten a lot of media attention tell the public that the reason "breastfed babies are so smart is because moms who breastfeed are more responsive and read to babies."
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140226155645.htm

Or researchers asking,"is Breast Truly Best..."  and declaring that"much of the beneficial long-term effects typically attributed to breastfeeding, per se, may primarily be due to selection pressures into infant feeding practices along key demographic characteristics such as race and socioeconomic status."
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953614000549

So who do you believe?  The media?  The industry and their patents?  Should we believe what we read through the media? through patents?  What is intelligence?  I am rather humored this morning because I think that we are playing the ultimate shell game.   Reminds me of the sixties--smoking is bad for you...no-no smoking is not bad for you.  Keep us guessing and in a state of confusion, the ultimate con game.

We have media articles that are destructive to the encouragement, protection, and promotion of breastfeeding.  Meanwhile, industry continues to make its profits by creating public confusion through damaging media reports.  While privately owning the very substance that is libeled publicly.
Copyright 2014 Valerie W. McClain
 



Thursday, January 30, 2014

Brewing microorganisms to create an amino acid used in baby formulas


                    "The Canadian Study leaves no doubt that ingredients that 
                     contain process free glutamic acid (MSG) and free aspartic-
                     acid--known neurotoxins--are used in baby formula."
                     http://www.truthinlabeling.org/formulacopy.html

Over a decade old, the Canadian Study analysed 5 formulas purchased in Canada.  The study noticed that the hypoallergenic formulas contained much more glutamic and aspartic acids than the non-hypoallergenic formulas.  According to the truthinlabeling website, the FDA sponsored a study in 1992 regarding the, "Safety of Amino Acids Used in Dietary Supplements."  They quote in part from that 1992 study, "...it is prudent to avoid the use of dietary supplements of L-glutamic acid by pregnant women, infants, and children..."

Dr. Gregory J. Georgiou, PhD, a clinical nutritionist, states in his article, "The Toxicity/Safety of Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG),"Today scientists know that MSG kills brain cells and causes neuroendocrine disorders in laboratory animals..."  He describes the many adverse reactions and states, "Obesity, reproductive disorders, and learning impairment, that sometimes become obvious only after puberty, may have their origins in neuroendocrine dysfunction caused by exposure of infants and small children to MSG.  He describes the hidden sources of MSG for those who read the ingredient list on their processed foods like infant formula.  These ingredients always contain MSG:  Glutamate, Glutamic acid, Gelatin, Monsodium glutamate, Calcium caseinate, Textureized protein, Monopotassium glutamate, Sodium Caseinate, Yeast nutrient, Yeast extract, Yeast food, Autolyzed yeast Hydrolyzed protein.  Then he lists those ingredients that often contain MSG or create MSG during processing:  Carageenan, Maltodextrin, Malt extract...Soy protein isolate....Whey protein concentrate....(see his article for a full listing)
http://health.insights2.org/MSG.html 

Dr. Georgiou also states that MSG is sprayed on crops as they grow (growth enhancers, fertilizers, fungicides).  And that MSG is used in waxes applied to raw fruits and vegetables.   Originally, seaweed was used to extract glutamic acid.   My understanding is that there is a couple of ways to manufacture this amino acid.  Fermentation is one process in which bacteria is used.  The bacteria is used because it has the ability to excrete glutamic acid.  The amino acid is separated from the liquid by filtration and various manufacturing processes are applied to creat the product.

Ajinomoto Company, Inc. is one company that manufactures this particular amino acid that is used by the infant formula industry.  They have several US patents and a European patent, too.  The first patent I read about was the US patent # 6331419 entitled, "L-glutamic acid-producing bacterium and method for producing L-glutamic acid," filed in 1998.  In this patent L-glutamic acid,"is produced by culturing in a liquid culture medium a microorganism belonging to the genus Enterobacter or Serratia.  The microorganism is "transformed with a vector containing a nucleic acid encoding at least one enzyme..." (enzymes may be citrate synthase, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase, or glutamate dehydrogenase).  I conclude that the use of a vector and transformation means that this product is produced by genetic engineering.  Part of the claim specifically mentions the use of Enterobacter agglomerans or Serratia liquefacience.  In 1982, Enterobacter agglomerans was considered a new cause of primary pneumonia (Thorax 1982;37:865-866).  It is a known plant pathogen that causes human disease. Enterobacter agglomerans has been renamed and now called Pantoea agglomerans.

Ajinomoto has a European patent entitled, "L-glutamic acid producing bacterium and process for producing l-glutamic acid,"  EP 0999282 A2.   The abstract states, "L-glutamic acid is produced by culturing in a medium a microorganism belonging to enterobacteria and having L-glutamic acid productivity, into which a citrate synthase gene derived from a coryneform bacterium is introduced to produce and accumulate L-glutamic acid..."  According to this claim the mircroorganism belongs to Enterobacter agglomerans or Klebsiella planticola.  This patent was filed in 1999.  And it is obvious to me that this is a process in which fermentation and genetic engineering techniques are used.

Ajinomota has another US patent entitled, "L-glutamic acid producing bacterium and process for producing L-glutamic acid, " filed in 1999 but published in 2007.  One of their claims is that the isolated microorganism "belonging to enterobacteria selected from the group consisting of the genus Enterobacter, Pantoea, Klebsiella, Erwinia and Serattia and having L-glutamic acid productvity with is transformed by a polynucleotide sequence encoding a citrate synthase obtained from Cornebacterium glutamicum or Brevibacterium lactofermentum..."

Rather fascinating that we use these pathogens to produce an amino acid for use in foods (it is also used in intravenous solutions, various medical products  and prescription drugs).  I am rather astounded that we use it in baby formula (and as you can see by Dr. Georgiou's listing of ingredients, this amino acid is in quite a few of the listed ingredients of baby formula besides being an added amino acid used in specific formulas).  This is a fermented brew of bacterium genetically engineered to produce greater amounts amino acid.  I just start wondering about what research was done that proved this was a risk-free ingredient for infants?
Copyright 2014 Valerie W. McClain 


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Human milk: The Mother of Inventions


                       "Oh lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz.
                        My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
                        Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends.
                        So oh lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz."
                              -written by:  Janis Joplin, Michael McClure,& Bob Neuwirth

How could I forget those times?  Janis Joplin wailing over the radio and riding around in borrowed cars in heavy traffic.  It was the summer before I headed off to college.  Working in a motorcycle parts warehouse was really boring but it had its moments of fun.  We all had our dreams and time to dream them.  Making money and spending it.  Dreaming about the car I would buy.  I wanted a Karmann-Ghia, preferably a convertible.  Pricy for me, couldn't afford it.  I laugh now; it was about $3000.  It was way beyond my meager income.  And then I went away to college.  I sort of forgot about the car dreams and found myself in a very different world.  It was a world of thought, textbooks, a dash of beer and a chaser of wild turkey.  And it was about late night discussions about world politics, Vietnam, protest, and a world gone mad.  It was life-changing in many ways.  But in many ways it was as isolating as my dreams of owning a purple Karmann-Ghia.  Are we directing our dreams?  Or do our dreams create us?  How much of consumerism is embedded in our youthful dreams?  How much rationality and understanding do we have as teenagers?  Why do we want what we want?  How much of our wants are being directed by market forces or advertising?  Are our minds free to think or are we drowning in the cacophony of the social media likes and dislikes?  How much is too much?  And what price are we paying for our concrete, digitized world of sound bytes and twitter feeds?

Well, I must admit to myself, that the world is getting more than freaky.  Its like entering a science fiction novel and finding out that its not fiction--its science!!!
Its consumerism gone mad.  Its the mad-hatter of maddness.  Loney-tune city and daffy duck rolled into one comedy-hour.  And everyone walking and talking like life is normal.  Seriously and sincerely, we will be making diapers based on human milk oligosaccharides.  Proctor & Gamble has a patent application entitled, "Substrate Comprising One or More Human Milk Oligosaccharides and Disposable Absorbent Article Comprising the Substrate," #20130281948. It is also a European Patent Application EP12165272.0.     The application states, "It is generally known that skin covered by disposable absorbent articles tend to be more susceptible to skin disorders, including diaper rash, erythema (i.e., reddness), heat rash, abrasion, pressure marks and loss of skin barrier function."  So the answer is, "One or more human milk oligosaccharides may act either by attachment to the receptors of harmful pathogenic microorganisms and render these microorganisms harmless."  The example they use of a pathogenic microorganism is Candida albicans.  Ta-da!!!Presto-chang-o, with the magical application of human milk oligosaccharides we will create a better, safer product.  Sound familiar?  This patent application is also directed at making disposable tampons, sanitary napkins and adult diapers.  

Human milk, the mother of inventions....buy, sell, trade.  No wonder the NJ legislature wants to control milk banking, its an investment that keeps on giving.  Oh yeah, the diaper invention,  probably a gmo product, can't imagine there is enough real human milk oligosaccharides at your local milk bank. Although maybe someday in the future?  I can just see the advertisement for diapers with Human Milk Oligosaccharides.  Because women can't or won't breastfeed, we are creating this product to protect your baby's butt from harmful pathogens.  It's organic, it's natural!!!!! Mother Nature's protective shield...  What a sad indictment of our society that women will reject this substance while the corporate world enshrines and markets it!!
Copyright 2014 Valerie W. McClain

 
 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Paradigm Shift


                     "Make it possible for me, in imitation of you, O Lady of
                      La Leche, to nurse my child to perfect health."
                                      -excerpt from prayer 
                                      -La Leche League Shrine, first shrine to be
                                      dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in USA,
                                      1620

The La Leche League Shrine resides in St Augustine, Florida.  One of the oldest cities in the US.  I have visited there many times, and find the grounds of the shrine to be so very peaceful.  I look at some of the graves dated from those early times and think how difficult life must have been for the women and men.  Life and death, whole families wiped out from epidemics.  Walking around the grounds of the shrine in the summer, one feels the heat and wonders how these settlers coped without air conditioning or medical facilities or pharmaceuticals.  No wonder this shrine was built and dedicated to Mary.  Survival must have seemed so tenuous, and the only hope, prayer.

So unlike today in the US.  We presume that there will always be air conditioning, medical facilities, clean water to drink, food to eat, and drugs to make us better.  Until some disaster hits, like a hurricane, a flood,a tsunami, or a nuclear tragedy.  Then we realize what a fine thread exists between our "modern" society and living without our amazing conveniences.  We believe what is, will always be in our lifetimes.  Never factoring in that other civilizations thought the same thing.  And now their civilizations are the dust we pave over and the lives we have forgotten.  Survival of infants in the 17th century in the frontiers of the sub-tropics/tropics depended upon breastfeeding.  We no longer believe in the imperative of breastfeeding for infant survival.  Instead, we believe that an industry will keep our infants safe.

At this moment in time we are caught up in a paradigm created by an industry in which we believe that artificial feeding can be made safe for all infants.  That belief is centered on the safety of our water supplies, the close proximity of medical facilities and access to the finest doctors and nurses, and that the government regulates the industry.  Artificial feeding creates the need for a clean source of water.  Of late, one may doubt that everyone in the US has access to clean water.  Recently, West Virginia experienced a chemical spill that effected hundreds of thousands.  Supposedly, 7500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol was accidently spilled into the Elk River  effecting the water supplies of many citizens in the area.  Those people effected had to find another source of water (provided by the government).  How many people drank the water or bathed (caused rashes and burns) in it before realizing that there was a problem?  How many formula-fed infants ingested this toxic water?   

One could argue that the poor of this country do not have ready access to health care in the US.  And one could argue that the baby food industry is not highly regulated by government agencies.  Yet, the paradigm our nation envisions is one of wishful thinking.  If we live in middle-class suburbia, we think everyone else lives like we do.  We avoid the "bad" sections of town and have no comprehension how the people of the "projects" [ghetto] live. We see what we want to see.  Some of our politicians (many who are lawyers) view single mothers living in poverty as worthless.  Human value has become dependent upon wealth, maleness, and and an ivy-league education.  If you aren't running in those circles, your value to society does not exist.  Their projection of value because of the power they hold has become our whole society's projection of value.  Value is billion dollar industries.  Thus, we have created a whole ideology about regulating an industry that feeds babies.  Our society believes only those members of society that are employed are valuable.  Women despite gains in the workplace are still under-valued and underpaid.  And the basic need of babies to be near their mothers is never factored into our society.

But even more strange about our current paradigm of infant feeding is the seemingly lack of knowledge/concern over some of the devastating effects of infant formula.  Most recent is the evidence about a pathogen whose name was Enterbacter sakazakii (now called Cronobacter) in powdered infant formula.  Powdered infant formula is not a sterile product.  It can be contaminated at the factory with various organisms (salmonella, botulism, etc).  Enterobacter sakazakii is considered to have a 40-80% infant mortality rate.  Survival often means that the infant is brain damaged.  In 2011, in the USA there was 12 cases of this contamination in infants.  There was a recent lawsuit.  Mead Johnson was sued in October of 2012 by parents of one infant that died, and two other parents whose infants were made sick.  According to the Associated Press, "The lawsuit alleges that a Mead Johnson executive warned health care workers but not consumers that powdered infant formulas should 'not be used in neonates or immunocompromised patients in hospital settings. http://www.courierpress.com/news/2012/oct/17/mead-johnson-sued-after-babys-death/

Abbott was sued in March of 2011 by a family who believes that their infant daughter contracted neonatal Enterobacter Sakzakii meningitis from Abbott's formula.  The daughter survived but suffered permanent brain damage. Their court battle continues and mentioned in this newspaper dated Jan. 5, 2014.
http://siouxcityjournal.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/jury-to-decide-if-baby-formula-caused-sioux-city-girl/article_b5f17144-39f2-56eb-bde2-5af531df1bc5.htm

When a product causes death and damage to infants and the industry cannot resolve the problem, is it not time for a paradigm shift?  In a recent patent application filed in April of 2013 by Mead Johnson entitled, "Adherence Inhibition of Pathogens by Prebiotic Oligosaccharides,"  application #20130287895; the patent states, "It [Enterobacter sakazakii] is an opportunistic pathogen that has been implicated in severe forms of meningitis, necrotizing enterocolitis, and sepsis in neonates."
And this patent application states that powdered infant formula has been implicated in "several outbreaks as well as other sporadic cases."  Then they state, "Human milk oligosaccharides are believed to elicit an increase in the number of Bifidobacteria in the colonic microflora, along with a reduction in the number of potentially pathogenic bacteria."  Thus, this particular infant formula patent application will create, "compositions comprising  a prebiotic component for inhibiting adherence of pathogens in the gastrointestingal tract..."

The industry sees the problem and chooses to imitate human milk components because human milk inactivates pathogens.  Will this create a safe product, this new concoction of various novel ingredients?  Maybe  and maybe not.  But what will it take to get a society to see that the paradigm of choice in infant feeding comes with a high cost not only emotionally but financially to parents, to the community, and to our society.  We are investing in a product that promises safety, nutrition, and female liberation from the demands of female biology.  What we are getting is a billion dollar industry that is constantly changing its products to imitate human milk because the old formula was unsafe.  Will the new formula be safer?  Why are we allowing this kind of risk without demanding more regulations in how this product is marketed?  Don't you think its time to envision a new paradigm regarding infant feeding?
Copyright 2014 Valerie W. McClain









Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pandora's Box--part 4-


                               "Every year 10 million children under five, most in poor
                       countries, die from infections of the chest and gut.  Babies
                       under six months who are not breastfed are five times              
                       more likely to die from pneumonia and seven times more
                       from diarrhoea.  In Brazil, artificially fed babies were 17 times
                       more likely to need hospital admission for pneumonia than
                       breastfed babies.  There is a dose related effect."
                                           --Gabrielle Palmer, "The Politics of Breastfeeding"

Why is it that policy-makers, in the US, feel that somehow our infants are immune from these statistics?  They believe that poverty only exists in developing countries. They believe that infant mortality and morbidity has nothing to do with the way in which babies are fed.  They believe that only vaccination can build immunity, that our food choices for babies has no impact on health and well-being of our infants.  

There are many reasons why policy-makers in the US are so blind to the risks of infant formula.  One big reason is that corporate advertising works on the minds and hearts of all of us.  Through advertising we see a world, a world invented by an industry (actually industries--the dairy, packaging, vitamin, oil companies--base of plastics for bottles and nipples).  Our society believes in "choice" when it comes to feeding babies.  Is that belief of "choice" based in reality or the advertising campaigns used by the infant formula industry?  How much of what we believe is based in reality and how much of it is based on the use of advertising.  Most people would deny the impact of advertising on their perceptions of reality. Yet consider the symbol of babyhood to most Americans, the bottle.  Play the word association game, baby??? Most people would respond with bottle not breast.  Have you ever gone to a baby shower and not seen one bottle?  It's on the gift-wrap or cards we give to the mother-to-be.  Does that influence us?

Is "choice" about female liberation?  Or is "choice" really a denial of female biology?  Men seem particularly enamored with giving women "choice."  Yet I suspect that men would not appreciate women telling men that they have a "choice" about the functions of their biology.   When the "choice" doctrine enriches an industry, at what point will we realize that "choice" is the underpinnings of an advertising campaign and not about women's liberation?

I am fascinated with a more recent theme on the internet of formula feeding mothers being offended by almost anything stated by breastfeeding advocates.  And even more interesting is the response of some breastfeeding advocates.  The response is to implore others to not upset formula feeders.  Meaning what?  Let's not talk about the risks of infant formula, instead lets make everyone feel good.  It's almost as if no one understands the advertising or should I say the social marketing budget of the infant formula industry.  (to be clear I do not believe in attacking others for their choices, formula feeding or breastfeeding)  But I do not believe that silence is the answer to misinformation.  Would you keep silent, if a mom said it was okay for a child to put a fork in an electrical socket?  Gee, I don't want her to feel bad?  

How much of what we believe in our world is influenced by the advertising we have seen throughout our lives?  Funny how people remember all the advertising jingles.  I still remember the TV Marlboro ads and guess what cigarettes I smoked?  Yet I am sure, when I was smoking cigarettes that I would have denied being influenced by advertising.  I also remember the Virginia Slims advertising.  Yes, I smoked that brand,too.  I would swear on a bible that ads don't effect me.  Yet to my chagrin, advertising has effected my buying habits.  

When infants die or get sick from a product, why is it so hard to envision some kind of advertising regulation on that product?  It's not like asking a company to shut down and no longer exist.  These companies in their patents admit to adverse effects of their product.  They state the need to recreate a formula more like breastmilk because infant formula creates greater health problems.  So why is our nation, which sells these products to poorer countries, willing to turn a blind-eye to the damaging nature of artificial feeding?

Patent application #20120172319
Title:  "Method for decreasing the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis in infants, toddlers, or children using human milk oligosaccharides."
Assignee:  Abbott

"Breast milk contains components that not only act as pathogen receptor analogues, but also activate immune factors by infant intestinal epithelial cells and/or associated immune cell populations to enhance development and maturation of the infant's gastrointestinal and immune system."

This patent application believes that "suboptimal intestinal flora may result in infection, diarrhea, allergies and food intolerance."  I believe suboptimal intestinal flora is the result of infant formula feeding (reading between the lines).  So Abbott will create a new formula based on human milk's ability to optimize the gut flora using human milk oligosaccharides (real or genetically engineered?).  

So there is acceptance that a product may create infections, allergies, etc.  And there is acceptance of "choice" without knowledge of the potential for infections, allergies, and even death are part of this product.  Regulation of advertising?  No.  Product mentions adverse effects?  No.  Rather odd that consumers are so willing to accept the consequences of such a product.
Copyright 2014 Valerie W. McClain