Health and medical experts in New Zealand have called for a ban on soy-based infant formula after a recent mouse study suggested soy damages the reproductive tract and immune system.
The US research, published in The Society for the Study of Reproduction, suggested that exposure to low levels of phytoestrogen during sensitive development stages of the female foetus through to puberty can affect fertility in later years.
Phytoestrogen is a plant-derived xenoestrogen (a type of hormone that mimics estrogen) and high levels can be found in soy products, as well as nuts and oilseeds.
Soy-based formula is a popular choice for parents trying to avoid problems with lactose intolerance.
New Zealand health groups have now called for soy-based baby formula to be withdrawn from supermarket shelves.
FSANZ will investigate
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) said it has taken note of all the opposition to soy-based formula and action would be taken on the question of such products very soon.
Saffron Urbaniak, public affairs officer for FSANZ, told FoodNavigator-Asia that the agency does regulate the composition and labelling of soy-based infant formula.
“The current compositional and labelling requirements for infant formula products [including soy-based products] can be found in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code,” he said.
According to Urbaniak, the agency does not regulate phyates in soy-based infant formula, but it has set standards for the amount of aluminum, fluoride, as well as calcium in the product.
“Under the current standards, soy-based formula must contain no more than 0.1 mg of aluminum per 100 ml and infant formula must contain a minimum of 12 mg of calcium per 100 kj,” he said.
Special label warnings are also required if an infant formula contains more than 17 mg of fluoride per 100 kj prior to reconstitution in powdered or concentrated infant formula or more than 0.15 mg of fluoride per 100 ml in a ‘ready-to-drink’.
However, the agency is preparing to review and potentially revise the standard according to the May 2011 Ministerial Councils Policy Guideline on Infant formula Products, Urbaniak said.
“This process will provide an opportunity to consider all relevant issues and concerns including current government and other authoritative recommendations as well as any new evidence about the health effects of consumption of soy infant formula,” he said.