Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Functional ingredients in formula

As a follow up to yesterday's post, I'm expanding a little bit on what exactly we want for Congress to consider. I didn't go into very much detail because quite frankly, I didn't think anyone was actually reading it. Funny how bloggers always think that about the very public internet. I am no expert, however, and I am simply passing on some of the research that I have done. I'll include the links I've used so that you can follow up if you like.

Alright. Functional ingredients in food and drink are things like antioxidents, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, vitamin D, and fiber. They are found in certain whole foods, but there is a trend of adding them to any and practically everything in the supermarket. Some examples are not new, like adding vitamin D to milk, but then there are the newer products like Naked's Superfood juice, and of course the wildly unsuccessful Diet Coke Plus.

Some of the claims that products make regarding the health benefits of these added ingredients are regulated by the FDA. However, many times they are not, and you will see located on the package, "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."

Instead of going into the misleading claims by formula companies, I'll just focus on the bill at hand.

The beginning of this article on the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities sums up the issue well, without moving into the breastfeeding side of things.

"Several foods offered through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are now sold in higher-priced versions containing “functional ingredients” that manufacturers claim confer health and developmental benefits. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ensures that these ingredients are safe, neither the FDA nor the Department of Agriculture (USDA) assesses whether they are beneficial. Moreover, WIC has no mechanism for considering scientific evidence when deciding whether to purchase foods with these ingredients— using taxpayer funds — for millions of low-income women and very young children."

Last year, WIC spent upwards of $91 million on the higher priced formula without having scientific evidence to prove that the functional ingredients actually have an effect on a baby's development and nutrition.

Of course, in a perfect world, WIC would take the $91 million spent on the unproven, higher priced formula and put it towards helping women from low-income families get the home and workplace support they need to be successful at breastfeeding.

A good start though, would be getting Congress to start holding the formula companies accountable, making them prove their claims before they raise their prices and raise parents' hopes of what they are feeding babies.