Thursday, February 28, 2013

Infant formula: Debt and dependency on the tradewinds of an industry

Is it cultural belief or our social media experts that have us believing that women can't or won't breastfeed?  Since some women can't or won't breastfeed, then our community, our nations, must invest in the creation of a "convenience food" that imitates human milkCertainly, there are women who can't or won't breastfeed.  But how much of this is a reflection of a society that has invested in industries over humanity?  How much of this is about creating a populace dependent upon a food industry? Like indentured servants, most of the people are in debt from school loans to car loans to home loans.  Independence is an illusion brought to you by the careful scripting of advertisements from industries that want you to buy their products.  The car you drive becomes the statement of who you are and your power in the economic caste system.  Your house, your clothes, and all those little trinkets become the illusion of who you are and your status in a society gone mad for things.

Infant formula is marketed by an industry that in all probability spends as much on its marketing budget as in the raw material it buys to create its products.  The industry sells us the images of the liberated woman who can have it all.  We trust the images of beautiful fat rolly-polly babies with a cool, collected, and very sane mothers who can do it all.  We trust in its safety and in its convenience to mothers.  We have this huge infant formula industry because mothers  cannot be trusted to create it safely. [infant formula is always a risk, even when created by an industry] Only industry has the smarts and research to create a substitute for human milk.  When babies don't gain fast enough or gain too much, the default option to breastfeeding has always been infant formula.  Our government and the medical community has mostly supported this kind of thinking because they, too, believe industry marketing.  We are a society that believes its illusions never realizing that the illusions are a product of industries seeking bigger markets.

This dependency of ours on industry and its illusions means that we are at the mercy of economic conditions at a time when the world is facing economic uncertain times.  It means that a product may not always be available depending upon where you live.  This can happen during times of emergencies like hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, wars, and nuclear accidentsMothers become dependent upon a product being available.  With global warming making weather situations unusual and in some instances catastrophic for farming, we are facing difficult times for people who have become overly dependent upon the convenience food industry.

Yet onward our societies go building more and more dependency of its citizens to the winds of economic game-playing.  The industry continues to sell its illusions to the publicDependency and debt become the driving force that makes us continue to believe in the illusion.

"A new study has reveled that InFat--a vegetable-based fat for infant formula with a similar sturcture to breast milk--provides beneficial effects for the health and well-being of formula-fed infants."
                                     "Speciality fat for infant formula boosts gut health,"
                                       by Gary Scattergood 2/12/13

A joint venture of AAK, a Swedish company, and Enzymotec, a biotech company based in Israel (Advanced Lipids) have created a fat that imitates human milk's high beta-palmitate content using a patented enzymatic process.  According to a pdf file from Advanced Lipids, "InFat ensures better uptake of energy and calcium." and "Infants fed InFat also benefit from signifciantly higher whole body bone mass, compared to infants fed standard vegetable oil based formula."  The title of this pdf file is, "InFat--Closer to mother's milk."  This is not the first time I find myself questioning the standard belief that human milk does not provide enough calcium for preterm infants.  If infant formula sponsored studies show the need to imitate human milk in order to get better calcium absorption than where does this belief that preterm infants need supplemental infant formula to get their calcium needs met?

This fat/oil for use in infant formula was declared GRAS by Enzymotec and the FDA has no questions regarding that declaration.  The GRAS notice is No. GRN 000192 and the agency response can be read at the FDA website.  The letter from the FDA to Enzymotec is interesting in that it discusses the two-step process of manufacturing this oil.  The second step of the process is what interests me.  The letter from the FDA states:

"Enzymotec states that this process uses a safe and suitable immobilized GRAS lipase enzyme preparation from Asperigillus oryzae carrying a gene encoding a lipase from Thermomyces laguninosus (the subject of GRN 000043)." and

"Enzymotec states that potential residues from the manufacturing process include protein, sorbitan oleate, methanol*, and epichlorhydrin**, but that all residues were below the limits of detection." [if detected they would be removed]  Seems like a contradictory statement to me.  

 *methanol is poisonous to the central nervous system, may cause blindness
**epichlorhydrin according to the EPA is moderatedly toxic, an irritant to the stomach as well as being carcinogenic

Enzymotec has a number of US patent applications and a patent.  Two applications seem to pertain to use in infant formula entitled, "Human Breast Milk Lipid Mimetic As Dietary Supplement (application # 20070218169)  and EDIBLE FAT COMPOSITION FOR ENHANCING BONE STRENGTH (application # 20110244071)  Clinical trials for their infant formula with InFat have been completed although one is still ongoing but not recruiting volunteers (although infants don't volunteer, their parents volunteer them)  The one that is ongoing is called,
"Effect of InFat Product on Stool Biochemistry and Stool Characteristics in Formula-fed Infants in China."  The sponsor is Enzymotec and the collaborator is Biostime, Inc (Guangzhou).  Two completed clinical trials on InFat on Bone strength and "intestinal parameters," were done in Israel. 

The clinical trial in China is interesting and if anyone wants to watch a video on the product and how it mimics human milk in Chinese, its on youtube, type in InFat. There is copyright on it.

The questions I have on the use of genetically engineered enzymes are many.  Enzymes are not considered foods and there is a belief that the enzymes used whether gmo or natural are only used as catalysts and are taken out of the product--the basis for so little regulation on them.  But I wonder about that belief and whether it is just wishful thinking that we believe that it doesn't matter where enzymes come from because residues are not left in the foods we eat.  I guess I leave it to others to question and try to make sense of the situation.

Breastfeeding represents to me self-sufficiency, autonomy from an industry that is creating new/novel products that make us more indebted and dependent on the whims and winds of industry.  Media marketing creates a dependency and indebtness to these industries.  Breastfeeding has always meant survival and health to our young.  And it does this without placing families into more debt.  Troubling that our society does so little to help families stay independent and solvent.  But I suppose the real concern is about investments, patents, and profits.  We are like the serfs in the Middle Ages tied to a system that benefits a few and harms so many.
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain