Are the additives in these ‘formulas’ really suitable for babies?

Posted by
November 13, 2014

soyformulaIn our previous blog, we talked about the risk posed to babies by the presence of whey protein concentrate, an “excitotoxin” containing free glutamic acid, in the “Good Start” products currently being marketed by Gerber as a preventive for childhood allergies (a claim now being disputed in a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission). In this one, we’d like to talk about two other problematic baby-food ingredients.

The first is hexane-extracted soy, which can be found in soy-based infant formulas.

Hexane is a neurotoxic, highly flammable, volatile chemical that is a byproduct of gasoline refining. It’s used in industrial glues and cleaning solutions. It can also be found in gasoline and numerous other consumer products, mostly adhesives, sealants and coatings, such as Rust-Oleum. But the most common use of hexane is as a solvent to extract the oils from nonorganic soy, canola and corn.

The Cornucopia Institute has been investigating hexane since its 2009 report, Behind the Bean was issued. It says that “nearly every major ingredient in conventional soy-based infant formula is hexane-extracted.”

We called two companies that make soy-based formulas, Abbot Laboratories, which makes Similac, and Mead Johnson, that makes Enfamil, to see what they had to say about the hexane-processed ingredients they use.

The Abbot specialist read from a prepared statement saying that many edible oils that have a “long history of safe use throughout the world (are) produced using the hexane extraction method,” and that the soy protein used in the company’s formulations are extracted this way, with “our suppliers’ standard practice” being to remove traces of hexane, adding that Abbot products have “been safely fed to millions of babies…and they have grown and developed normally.”

Mead Johnson told us that they had no information about hexane and soy; however a member of its product information department called back the next day, not about the soy, but to tell us its fatty acid additives DHA and ARA, are “purified” with hexane and that the “suppliers’ standard practice” is to remove all “detectable” traces of the chemical (the DHA and ARA are produced from laboratory-grown algae and fungus).

The Cornucopia Institute notes that “(t)he effects of consuming foods that contain hexane-extracted ingredients are not known,” also stating that  hexane “has been tested for its effects on workers” but not “for its effects on consumers as part of the human diet.”

And certainly not tested as being part of a baby’s diet.

An invitation to inflammation?

Another additive that has no business in a product intended for consumption by infants (or people of any age, in fact) is carrageenan, a seaweed-based thickening agent listed as an ingredient in several Similac formulas, including Similac Advance, Similac Alimentum and Similac for Spit Up.

Carrageenan, it so happens, is on our list of food additives to avoid, and is also the subject of another Cornucopia Institute  report titled: Carrageenan, How a ‘natural’ food additive is making us sick, which showed how “regular consumption of carrageenan can produce “prolonged and constant” inflammation of the gastro-intestinal system, which is a “precursor to more serious disease.”

At the time, we pointed out that “the carrageenan used by the food industry is called “food grade,” but it appears that this more edible-sounding version can turn into the potent inflammatory and carcinogenic “degraded” version in the human GI tract. (The “degraded” version is so strong it’s used to induce inflammation in laboratory animals to test anti-inflammatory drugs).”

It’s bad enough that the Food and Drug Administration allows this unnecessary irritant to be used in so many different products. But really – do we want to feed a known source of stomach inflammation to an infant?

It sounds like some of these products could well be “formulas” for disaster.