21 September 2008

Formula

On September 11, 2008, Chinese parents were hit out of the blue with an announcement saying their baby formula was potentially contaminated, and their children might be at risk of kidney failure.

In the days since, we have learned that hospitals were reporting unusual renal health problems among infants as early as March 2008, and that Sanlu, one of the leading producers of formula, had known about the problem in early August - before the Olympics started - but did not reveal it to the public nor the government until one of their foreign partners alerted the New Zealand government. We have also learned that 20% of the formula manufacturers in China have similarly contaminated product, and that even some brands of ice cream, yogurt, and liquid milk have been compromised.

It has been determined that some farms have been watering-down the milk they provide to dairies in an effort to cheat the system, and that they have added the industrial chemical melamine to skew test results to make it appear as if the diluted milk has adequate protein. Melamine is the same chemical that killed hundreds of animals in the 2007 scandal around Chinese-manufactured pet food. It affects kidney function, eventually causing large stones and ultimately failure with continued exposure.

Traditionally, the advice given to parents traveling to China to unite with their adopted child was to buy extra Chinese formula, and use it when back home to transition over to Western-produced product. (That's what we did with our daughter - even using the Sanlu brand.)

However, on September 12, the US FDA issued a health advisory explicitly stating that Chinese-manufactured infant formula should not be used. The brands the FDA lists as inspected and approved are:

Abbott Labs PBM Nutritionals
Mead Johnson Solus
Nestle SHS/Nutricia

The Canadian government, and the Australia-New Zealand Food Standards authority, have also issued similar communications.

What this means is that traveling parents must now purchase and pack their own formula for the entire trip. It's extra bulk in your luggage - something else will need to stay home - but essential for your piece of mind, and your child's health.

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An expanded version of this article will be published on our main site at weninchina.com, along with additional links to government sources and news articles.