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Organic Baby Home • Organic Baby Nutrition • Toxic Organic Infant Formula?

Could Organic Infant Formula
Be Toxic?


Yes, you're right... toxic, organic baby formula is a bit of an oxymoron. However, it appears that the term "organic" is not enough to ensure that your baby's formula has not been exposed to chemicals.

This article highlights two ways formula-feeding parents can reduce this exposure and makes product recommendations to support healthy baby feeding.

Nutritional Additives

Organic infant formula should be free of toxic ingredients.

In 2006 organic infant formula companies began adding DHA and ARA omega fatty acids to their products in order to give formula-fed babies more of the nutrients found in breast milk. That's the good news.

However, in some cases the oils are extracted from non-toxic algae and soil fungus using chemicals such as hexane, acid and bleach.

Hexane, is a volatile liquid found in glue and gasoline. When inhaled in high volumes it can cause nausea, euphoria, headaches and nerve damage. You can read more about the hexane process and formula supplementation by downloading a report at the Cornucopia Institute.

Since there are two sides to every story, we contacted three popular infant formula brands about this issue. Here are parts of their responses (July 23, 2008):

  • Similac® Organic Infant Formula

    A customer service representative said that while Similac® does use the hexane method to extract the oils, 3rd party testing confirms that no trace of the hexane solvent in the DHA and ARA oils can be found in the organic infant formula.

  • Earth's Best Organic Infant Formula

    Earth's Best said they use Life DHA and ARA from the Martek Corporation. They say the hexane solvent method is the only US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved method of extracting these oils. However, no hexane is detectable in the product. Furthermore, no bleach is used in this process.

  • Nature's One® Baby's Only Organic® Formula

    This company's website says that their DHA and & ARA fatty acids are derived from egg phospholipids using an aqueous (water) process. They go on to say they have never used processes that involve hexane or sulfur dioxide in their formulas.

    On the phone the company said the ingredients and the process are FDA approved. (It is worth noting that this issue has prominent placement on their website.)

Packaging

Another potential source of toxins in organic infant formula is the packaging. The containers used for canned infant formula (and other canned food items) can contain a Bisphenol-A (BPA)-based epoxy resin.

Excessive exposure to BPA can cause altered hormone levels in babies and even damage their reproductive systems.

According to Enviroblog.org, the levels of BPA leached into baby formula from the cans is even greater than the amounts once common in U.S. produced baby bottles. While this leaching can take place with both liquid and powdered formulas, much lower levels have been found in powdered formulas packaged in these steel cans.

You can visit Enviroblog in order to stay on top of pending US legislation on BPA and other toxins found in consumable baby products.

The same three companies were contacted about BPA in their packaging (July 23,2008). Here are the responses:

  • Similac®

    Similac® says that coatings used on the interior surface of their metal powder cans and their new composite cans may contain minute levels of BPA. However, neither the body of the composite can nor the sanitary end have coating that contains BPA.

    They went on to say that formula made by Abbott Nutrition complies with US federal and European safety standards well below the limits established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

    A second customer representative said the amount contained is 100 times lower than what the agencies in the US, Europe and Japan consider to be safe.

    However, if you're looking for a BPA-free option, the ready to feed one quart containers are the best choice.

  • Earth's Best Organic Infant Formula

    All of their infant formulas are powdered. The only part that contains BPA is the easy open seal at the top of the container (the part that tears off). They say that independent third-party testing found no detectable BPA in their product.

  • Nature's One® Baby's Only Organic® (Soy & Dairy)

    They also offer only powdered organic infant formula. Nature's One® was able to make an update to their product packaging in regards to BPA. Below is the update they sent me in May 2010.

    Nature's One® packaging is 100% BPA-free. Nature's One® canisters have always been BPA-free except for the possibility of un-reacted BPA on the easy-open removable metal top. By working with our suppliers, we are now able to provide composite canisters with easy open tops that are BPA-free. All products manufactured in 2010 will be canned using the new packaging; this includes Baby's Only Organic® formulas and PediaSmart® nutrition beverages.

    As an organic manufacturer, Nature's One® is concerned over the level of chemicals ingested by infants, toddlers and children and is also conscientious of how our packaging impacts the environment. Nature's One® sources the highest quality ingredients and materials available to produce and package its organic pediatric products.


    Below is their original statement in 2008:

    We have recently switched from the composite cans (partially paperboard) to the steel cans. Rest assured that neither can contains BPA. Baby's Only Organic® formula steel canisters and re-closeable plastic lids are uncoated and do not contain bisphenol-A.

    However, the can's "easy-open" metal top contains an epoxy-based interior coating that may contain trace amounts of unreacted bisphenol-A. It is highly unlikely that any detectable amount of bisphenol-A would migrate from the easy-open top into Baby's Only Organic® formulas.

    This is especially true considering there is minimal contact between the powder and the easy-open top during processing and distribution. Once the formula is opened, the easy-open metal top is discarded. The steel canisters, plastic lids and easy-open metal tops are all recyclable.

    We are currently working with our supplier in asking them that when a BPA free easy open lid is available to contact us so that we may incorporate them into our packaging. To date, they have told us there is nothing available in the marketplace.

So What's a Formula-Feeding Mama To Do?

  • Get specific information from the people who make your baby's brand of organic infant formula. Ask questions until you get an understanding and an answer that satisfies you. If you find an organic infant formula company that answers both questions perfectly - please let us know.

  • In general, the powdered organic baby formula packaged in non-steel cans is thought to minimize leaching of BPA into the formula.

  • If liquid is all that is available to you, choose concentrated liquid formulas that require mixing over ready-to-eat liquid formulas in metal cans (One exception is the Similac® ready-to-feed formula).

  • Make sure bottles and sippy cups are BPA, PVC and Phthalate-free. I have used and like those made by Born Free.

  • Avoid using baby bottles with plastic liners as they may leach chemicals.

Every parent's desire is to provide sound baby nutrition without chemicals that could comprise their baby's health. Ask questions, prioritize the issues for your baby, and consult your pediatrician if necessary to make an informed choice.

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Would you like to learn more about these and other brands of organic baby formula? Check out the profiles and parent reviews of organic formulas:

Baby's Only Organic ®
Bright Beginnings
Earth's Best
Parent's Choice
Similac

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