Monday, August 25, 2014

A Critique and A Patent

                       "Globalized industrialized food is not cheap:  it is
                        costly for the Earth, for the farmers, for our health.
                        The Earth can no longer carry the burden of ground-
                        water mining, pesticide pollution, disappearance of
                        species and destabilization of the climate."
                        --Vandana Shiva

I recently read, "Supporting Formula-Feeding Moms During World Breastfeeding Week," by Suzanne Barston (Fearless Formula Feeder blogger) published at the Huffingtonpost website on August 6, 2014.  Suzanne Barston is an advocate for formula feeding familes.  Yet, recently she became a Certified Lactation Consultant (CLC).  How exactly does one adequately advocate for both infant formula feeding and breastfeeding families?  Isn't it possible that some families may get short-changed by this middle-of-the-road approach?  I remember from my childhood a biblical verse that seems to address this concern about a middle-of-the-road approach.  From Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other."  

Suzanne Barston states that World Breastfeeding Week, "is the perfect time to spread our own message about self-care, individuality and confidence."  Timing of social media messages is critical.  Why pick the same week as World Breastfeeding Week?  What message does this send out to the world?  Hm, if infant formula feeding is about self-care, individuality and confidence then breastfeeding is not about self-care, individuality and confidence.

I feel a sense of competitiveness, why else pick the same week as World Breastfeeding Week to celebrate infant formula feeding families?  Why not pick another month or another week?  From the beginning Barston writes about failure--playing at soccer, losing the game because as a goalie she failed to block a shot by the opposing team.  Then being yelled at by her teammates and feeling like a failure.  This is the author's issue.  Should this issue be the basis of running a social media campaign that in essence sabotages a time to celebrate breastfeeding?

The author writes, "What's best for the masses isn't always best for the individual."  One has to conclude from the article that infant formula feeding is about individualism and by implication that breastfeeding is what everyone is doing.  Yet that isn't even true.  Most women do either a mixture of breastfeeding and infant formula feeding or exclusive formula feeding.  The message of individualism speaks to who?  This is a subtle media message, a Republican ideology, stemming from Herbert Hoover days who coined the term "rugged individualism".  Hoover believed that the federal government should not interfere with the American people during the Great Depression.  He also said, "After all, the chief business of the American people is business." Business is the priority of our society.  Infant formula is a billion dollar business that thrives when women believe that choice is an individual, rational decision not governed by advertising or social media campaigns.

The author writes, "Breastfeeding is one part of a complex puzzle that makes up child health."  She states, "Public health messaging is about public health, not individual health."  Say what?  This statement is bizarre in the extreme.  I won't even comment because it is beyond rationality.

The author to prove that bottlefeeding is wonderful and that bonding does not require breasts, let's readers click on a link to a picture of a mother bottlefeeding her baby.  Where has the author been for the past few decades?  There are bottlefeeding pictures everywhere, glorifying bottlefeeding--just look at infant formula advertising on the internet.  What we don't get to see so much is breastfeeding pictures.  Even Facebook up until recently was taking down pictures of breastfeeding.  We don't need more bottlefeeding pictures.   And the fact is that glorifying pictures of bottlefeeding will definitely sell more cans of infant formula.  This makes me question how someone who advocates for infant formula feeding (families) can also serve breastfeeding clients well if at all.

I think the biggest problem I have with this media campaign is that all these messages play into an industry that stands to gain in more people using infant formula to express their individuality.  And actually this campaign seems to create an even bigger divide between breastfeeding mothers and infant formula feeding mothers with its focus on how infant formula feeding mothers are made to feel like failures (by who else breastfeeding mothers).  The reality is that feelings of failure are self-induced and to blame someone else for feelings of failure in a public venue is scapegoating, a well-known propaganda technique.

From my perspective, Huffington Post is unsupportive of breastfeeding, otherwise it would not have published this kind of article, particularly on World Breastfeeding Week!

Another patent...regarding irradiation of infant formula...

Patent # 88902018 entitled, "Apparatus and method for radiation processing of fluent food products," by inventors Shekhar Patel and Laurence J. Kiely and owned by Nestec (Nestle).  Filed in 2006.  The invention uses e-beams to reduce levels of Enterobacter sakazakii.

"Figure 9 is a flowchart depicting a method of irradiating powder infant formula according to an embodiment of the present invention."

"In most scientific literature it is assumed that on an average E. sakazakii contaminated infant formula has approximately 36 cells/10Kg of product.  If an infant formula contaminated at this level is processed by e-beam at a dose level of 3.4 KgY, it will bring down the microbial load to 0.36 cells/10 Kg (almost impossible to detect using current microbial testing procedures)."


Food irradiation has some health risks.  Vitamin E and C levels are reduced which can be compounded by longer storage times of irradiated foods.  By-products are created by irradiation, one chemical is known to cause DNA damage in rat colon cells at high doses.  "Food irradiation does not inactivate dangerous toxins which have already been produced by bacteria prior to irradiation."  from Position Statement of The Food Commission-July 2002

I don't know if infant formula is irradiated in the USA or in other countries.  Interesting that Nestle owns a patent on irradiating infant formula and I wonder whether this technology is used and in what countries.
Copyright 2014 Valerie W. McClain 


  1. It irks me when I see not breastfeeding linked with Republicanism. Breastfeeding mothers come in all political persuasions. To link breastfeeding to a progressive agenda denies that there is nothing more self-sufficient and independent than feeding your child at your own breast.

  2. Breastfeeding is certainly self-sufficiency and independence from the food industry. Which strangely enough I thought was part of a Progressive Party approach. (Republicanism reflects Big Business interests and letting Big Business do whatever it wants--the trickle-down theory of economics). Mothers who breastfeed or formula feed have a variety of political views and belong to various political parties. My point is that this social media campaign has political overtones. There is an art to persuading people that "the moon is made of green cheese" or that breastfeeding advocates/mothers are the "cause"' of infant formula feeding mothers' feelings of failure. What I link with Republicanism is this social media campaign uses propaganda techniques to destroy the years of progress made to create a more breastfeeding tolerant society. It is a media campaign that can only help make a Big Business, the infant formula industry, more profitable.

  3. Huffington Post was acquired by AOL in 2011. AOL CEO is Tim Armstrong, is a Republican donor and considered to be conservative. from the website Business Insider in an article titled, "HuffPo's New AOL Overlord Is A Republican Donor, "One Of the Most Conservative People Around." 2/7/2011

    So should we be surprised that this article was published during World Breastfeeding Week?