Friday, November 13, 2015


"During the postnatal development, the newborn intestine experiences a process of maturation that ends by the establishment of a functional barrier to macromolecules and pathogenic bacteria.  This phenomenon is called gut closure and appears to be affected by the diet.  Hence, different studies with infants (JPGN, 1995, 21: 383-6) and animal models (Pediatr Res, 1990, 28: 31-7) show that the maturation of the barrier is faster in breast-fed than in formula-fed newborns.  This could explain the higher prevalence of allergy and infection in infants fed formula than in those fed with mother's milk."
Patent #8394370 "Nutritional formula for optimal gut barrier function,"
owned by Nestec (Nestle), filed in 2004

The cupboard is bare.  No infant formula on the shelves of major grocery stores in Australia.  Some parents have to go to 15 different stores to get their baby some formula.  These baby formula shortages have also occurred in Hong Kong and New Zealand.  What the hell is going on?

An article in The Age, Australia, ("Why Baby Formula is the New Iron Ore,"dated 11/13/15) by Jessica Irvine, "Aussie mums are finding themselves at the pointy end of what could prove a boon for Aussie dairy farmers and formula manufacturers." and the article seems to suggest that moms are stockpiling formula and that they, "might want to consider stockpiling a few shares, too."  Yes, while mums of Australia hunt for infant formula for their babies, they should also buy shares of stock in the infant formula industry.  Sadly, the article begins with the author's own experience with breastfeeding going badly and a kind nurse setting her free from having to breastfeed.  And then the author states, "With the support of my doctor, paediatrician and obstetrician, we switched to formula and have been a proud and happy formula-feeding family ever since."  Then the rest of the article is praise for the infant formula industry, and advice to investors and mums regarding the shortages.  

The nurse set this mom free from breastfeeding.  And now she is free to scramble with the rest of the Aussie moms to find enough formula to feed her baby.  Thank God for Freedom.  

Ever since the Chinese infant formula tragedy in 2008 where infants died and thousands hospitalized, there has been enormous economic repercussions not only in China but reverberating into other countries. The tragedy created an enormous distrust of the Chinese infant formula industry. And the consequence was an increased demand for infant formula manufactured in other countries. 

Then in 2013 the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China began an antitrust probe for suspected price fixing and other illegal practices of the major foreign baby formula brands (Mead Johnson, Danone, Nestle, Abbott, Friesland Campina and 2 Chinese companies, Biostime and Beignmate).  The NDRC had noticed that one infant formula company would increase the price of their formula and shortly afterwards the others would follow suit.  They accused the manufacturers of setting prices to their distributors creating in effect  a vertical monopoly. They eventually fined 6 companies.  The biggest fine went to Mead Johnson.  Abbott, Danone, Biostime, RoyalFrieslandCampina and Fonterra were also fined.  Nestle SA and Meiji of Japan were not fined because they, "cooperated with the investigation, provided important evidence and carried out active self-rectification." (Wall Street Journal, "China Fines Dairy Companies," Aug7, 2013)

Recently, China announced that it was relaxing the one child per family policy, allowing 2 children per family.  And of course, stock prices for various infant formula companies increased with this news.  In an article in Aussie Food News they state a study in 2013 shows that only 30% of Chinese women breastfeed.  The article attributes the low rates of breastfeeding as being caused by "a lack of public nursing facilities and minimal maternity leave." 

According to a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, "Consumer advocates are demanding the federal government guarantee the supply of baby formula amid a spat between Coles [supermarket] and the government over who is to blame for a national shortfall of popular brands."

Who is to blame?  Some accuse Chinese vacationers and/or students who are visiting Australia for buying up popular infant formula  and reselling for big profits.  Some blame online websites that sell infant formula.  Grocery stores blame the manufacturers for the supply limitations.  Some blame infant formula advertising in which Chinese parents are convinced that a certain formula will increase intelligence or immune function.  The blame gets passed around and aound.  The truth seems to be lost in media hype.

Are these shortages a natural consequence of Chinese government policy, and/or Australian government policy?  Is it a natural consequence of the economics of supply and demand?  Are the shortages a result of deceptive advertising in China by the infant formula industry?  Are some people hoarding infant formula?  Are these shortages part of the monopolistic character of the infant formula industry? 

Mothers here in the USA, presume that this product that gives them freedom from breastfeeding will always be available.  Although what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina makes some of us aware that when disaster strikes infant formula maybe difficult to obtain during a disaster, as well as a risk for infants.  We presume in our society that grocery stores will always be full of a wide variety of convenience foods.  We presume that disasters happen to other people and other countries, not us.  We treasure our freedoms.  But freedom from breastfeeding means that infant formula feeding mothers are controlled by the economic winds of an industry in search of greater profits. Is that freedom? or slavery?
Copyright 2015 Valerie W. McClain

No comments:

Post a Comment