Baby formula claims part of “scare” agenda: experts

An environmental activist group has claimed popular Australian baby formulas contain “needle-like” nanoparticles that are toxic to cells, inciting pressure for recalls

Friends of the Earth says it has found nano-hydroxyapatite particles in three out of seven infant formula products in independent testing commissioned by the group.

It claims that food-grade nano-hydroxyapatite presents severe health concerns due to its very small size and “needle-like” structure.

Nanotechnology and molecular sciences expert Dr Emad Kiriakous supports the findings, pointing out that nano-hydroxyapatite’s “needle-like geometry [has shown] … cell-specific cytotoxicity.”

The nanoparticles have also previously been deemed unsuitable for use in toothpaste and mouthwash by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) due to potential toxicity.

Friends of the Earth cites the European Commission, saying the nanoparticles have been found to cause cell death in rat kidneys and livers, and outlines the prohibition of the nano-hydroxyapatite in consumables in accordance with the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

However, toxicology experts disagree with the research conclusions.

Professor Andrew Bartholomaeus, a consultant toxicologist and former chief toxicologist at the TGA, describes the observation of hydroxyapatite in food as “unexciting and facile”, claiming that it “is a normal human component of teeth and bones and small quantities of nanoparticulate deposits … can be found in normal human tissue.”

Dr Ian Musgrave from the University of Adelaide’s School of Medicine claims the presence of hydroxyapatite in milk-based dried infant formula is unsurprising, as it is one of the forms of calcium phosphate in milk and that “there are no significant public health implications”.

And Professor Ian Rae, an advisor to the UN Environment Programme on chemicals in the environment, describes the repeated use of the phase “needle-like” by Friends of the Earth as pushing an unjustified scare and furthering their own agenda.

The FSANZ, which the Friends of the Earth previously cited, refutes the claims of toxicity and affectation on infant health, claiming “there is no new evidence to suggest these products pose a risk to infant health and safety”.

It says parents and carers should not be alarmed or concerned regarding the safety of infant formula products.

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