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Dumped infant formula in LebanonDear Editors,

I’d like to highlight an issue regarding expired infant formula, prompted by a news report in Lebanon.1 Twenty tons of expired infant formula was found near a plantation in Karm Saddeh in the north Lebanon district of Zghorta. Authorities launched an investigation into its source, involving both health ministry officials and the police.

In studying the regulation of infant formula, I have consistently failed to discover what happens with outdated formula. What is supposed to happen? What actually does happen?

These questions came clear to me years ago when I was with a group of nutrition experts in Nepal, wandering the streets after a conference. We went into a little kiosk where one of our group picked up a box of powdered formula. He peeled back an innocent-looking sticky label and pointed out that it covered the printed “use by” date.

What do stores, wholesalers, and manufacturers do with their outdated formula? Do stores send it back to the wholesalers, and from there does it go to the manufacturers? We can make guesses about this, but what do we actually know? We might assume that somewhere along the way, outdated formula is discarded, but we don’t really know that. Apparently some of it is used in feed for livestock, but what proportion of it is used that way? Where does the rest of it go? Shouldn’t that use be tracked and regulated? Is there any national law against selling outdated formula anywhere? What are those laws, and what is the history of their enforcement?

In the U.S., infant formula is the only food product that is required to have a printed “use-by” date on the package. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, after this date, it should not be fed to infants. However, the FDA does not say what is to be done with the product after that date. There are no rules, and thus no enforcement.

Some foods are still safe to use after their use-by dates, but of course they all deteriorate, and the risk of contamination increases over time. For infants, all of whom are highly vulnerable, the risks are high. The harm due to the use and misuse of infant formula are well documented. It is not only safety that matters. Infant formula’s nutritional adequacy, already compromised when the product is new, deteriorates steadily over time. As food safety experts know, a key factor in ensuring food safety is trackability, so any questionable product can be traced to its source. There should be a systematic way to track the disposition of outdated formula, especially if it is exported.

It might be useful if more people were to document the expired formula problem in different countries more thoroughly.

Photo

Regards

 

George Kent

Department of Political Science, University of Hawai'i

kent@hawaii.edu

Read more...

1 Antoine Amrieh, 20 tons of expired babyformula found in north Lebanon. The Daily Star. April 9, 2015. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2015/Apr-09/293855-20-tons-of-expired-baby-formula-found-in-nlebanon-farm.ashx

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Reference this page

George Kent (2015). Letters. Field Exchange 50, August 2015. p95. www.ennonline.net/fex/50/lettergeorgekent

(ENN_4972)

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