Friday, April 13, 2012

"Free" infant formula

"If it's free it's for me."  A motto I have lived by since my early twenties.  Obviously in this world there are many who live by this motto.  So when US hospitals give away infant formula, one would suppose that this was manna from heaven.  From what I have read on the Virtual, some mothers are livid that those "breastfeeding fruitcakes" are pushing for the end of free formula in hospitals.  Although I tend to think some of those supposed "moms" are the PR people from the infant formula industry.

Funny how I have never questioned "free" when it comes from nature.  My left- alone compost pile that surprises me with 5 pounds of potatoes or tomato plants galore.  Or my loquat tree, we call Japanese plum, that fruits twice a year and gifts me with such sweet fruit.  Or my free water supply caught by my big old rain big water bill this month.  Yet, I do question gifts given by corporations to the public.  What is it about free toys from industry that makes us feel like we, the consumers, have finally caught a break from the reality of a monied world?  We feel that we are strong-minded and that just because an industry gives us some free stuff, we are not ensnared by the industry.  

One of the things the infant formula industry knows (because they do the research) is that the brand of formula given out in the hospital is usually what a parent will use for the first year of their infant's life.  Thus, the introduction of a certain brand in the hospital has enormous monetary effect on profits of a particular infant formula company.  Usually a baby that is fed Nestle in the hospital will be fed Nestle at home.  The thinking of the parent is that if the hospital gave it out, then it must be the better infant formula, the safest infant formula, the medically approved brand.  By default, this kind of give-away becomes endorsement by a medical establishment implying medical approval.

Getting something for free, is often a hook to snare the consumer.  Think about the free cigarettes given out to serviceman in WW II.  How many men from that era got hooked on cigarettes?  Think of the drug dealer on the street, who wants some new drug trial for a short time. Think of the free samples of prescription medicine given out by your friendly doc.  How grateful we are because the bill for some of those drugs might mean you need to rob a Brink's truck.  So that free sample means that you are ever grateful to your doc and the pharmaceutical company.  The pharmaceutical company that so kindly dropped it off to your doctor.  Now why would they do that?  Benevolence? Yes, drug dealers are very first.  But when ya have a bad reaction to your drug, they disavow any responsibility.  It's not their fault, that your kidney's shut down or your liver failed, or your skin fell off or you died.  You should have known better.  Didn't ya read the small print that came with your drug?  No?  You thought it couldn't happen to you.  Yeah, it always happens to the other guy, not me, not my family.

Infant formula has no warnings on their label.  Parents assume because you can buy it at any grocery store, pharmacy, or over the internet that it is a safe product, tested and approved by the FDA.  Yeah...sure.  The FDA approves nothing, it presumes safety based on the industry's own evaluations.  Parents may hear about infants who have died or been neurologically impaired by contamination of infant formula by enterobacter sakazakii or salmonella or melamine (all those Chinese babies who died).  But it's not going to happen to their child.  This is kinda like the smokers who knew that other smokers died from lung cancer but it wasn't going to happen to them.  Although they did not understand that smoking not only damaged the lungs but the cardiovascular system.  Likewise, infant formula, impacts babies in many, many ways not discussed publicly.  Nor is their any public discussion of the use of genetically engineered bacteria (for probiotics) in baby formulas and how this would seem to be a huge experiment on infants.  The ramifications of the use of genetically engineered bacteria in baby formulas is unknown. 

The infant formula industry studies human milk, collects it, and patents off of it.  Human milk is their standard, the gold standard.  The general public and the medical community seems to believe that infant formula is the standard and that human milk is always questionable, tarnished.  Rather ironic and sad.  Industry knows better than the medical community regarding the risks of infant formula.

A recent patent owned by N.V. Nutrica (infant formula company in
Europe) makes some interesting statements in its patent # 8114441 called, "Immune stimulatory infant nutrition," filed in 2005 at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

"The composition reduces-among others-the risks attached to feeding whey dominant infant formula."

"...whey dominant formulas do not optimally protect against infections."

"Moreover, the flora of infants fed with formulas containing whey dominant bovine protein source contain increased amounts pathological bacteria such as clostridia and enterobacteria."

Hm...parents ought to know this risk.  The medical community ought to understand this risk.  

The infant formula industry in order to combat this situation is trying all sorts of experiments to change the gut flora of the formula-fed infant.  For instance, Mead Johnson has a patent called, "Probiotic infant products," patent # 8137718 filed in 2008.

"In another embodiment, the infant formula or children's nutritional product contains B. longum strain AH1205 or a mutant or variant thereof.  The mutant may be a genetically modified mutant."

"Genetic modification includes introduction of exogenous and/or endogenous DNA sequences into the genome of a Bifidobacteria strain, for example by insertion into the genome of the bacterial strain by vectors, including plasmid DNA, or bacteriophages."

The infant formula industry is playing with bacteria and feeding it to our young.  Why?  Because they believe they need to create a substance more like human milk because human milk is the gold standard.  Do parents understand what they are feeding their infants?  Do hospitals understand what they are giving to parents to feed to their infants?  Who is legally responsible for this situation, when this experiment goes haywire?  Or will we even know if this massive experiment is going wrong?

Meanwhile in Spain, other inventors and another company-Hero Espana have decided to use micro-organisms isolated from the feces of children exclusively breastfed to create a probiotic for use in infant formula.  They have a US patent application 20120076829 entitled, "Isolation, identification and characterisation of strains with probiotic activity, from faeces of infants fed exclusively with breast milk."

"Said microorganisms are used in the food or pharmaceutical industry, especially for use in infant formula milk, due to their probiotic properties which have beneficial effects on the health of those ingesting them."

Oh yes, women can't or won't breastfeed, so by golly, they will get human milk components genetically engineered by our men and women of industry.  Of course, one might ask why parents want to feed their infants genetically engineered foods?  Well, we know very well women can't or won't breastfeed.  And since they can't or won't, the hospital will all so kindly provide these designer infant formulas for free, so that parents can try them out.  And let's see what happens...parents need to wake up and the medical community needs to think about their legal responsibility in this mess.  Unless of course, there is this belief in the safety of feeding newborns genetically engineered foods.  Yeah, free stuff usually has a hook...and that hook is your child becomes part of an experiment.
Copyright 2012 Valerie W. McClain