One of a parent’s first major decisions is how-or what-to feed their baby. For those who formula feed, the pressure to find a high-quality product that is as nutritious as possible can be daunting. And that may be why some parents are turning to European brands like HiPP, Holle, Lebenswert and Töpfer, which some might assume to be more natural and superior to those on American shelves.
The problem, as the New York Times reports, is that many of these formulas are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which means they could potentially be dangerous:
According to representatives from HiPP, Holle and Töpfer, these products are not registered with the Food and Drug Administration and do not have official distribution channels in the United States. That means importing and selling these formulas in the United States is illegal, the F.D.A. said. But they are still entering the country via third-party vendors.
A product without the FDA’s stamp of approval that is being sold by third-party vendors has a number of safety concerns:
Storage: Third-party vendors may not properly store the formula, increasing the risk for contamination or deterioration. And there’s no way to know whether it was exposed to extreme temperatures during transit.
Nutrition: The formulas may or may not contain all the nutrients required in the U.S.
Recalls: There would be no system in place to notify consumers in the United States of a product recall, which means there could be a delay in receiving that important news.
Labeling: The labels might not be written in English or could be otherwise confusing or misleading for Americans-formulas labeled as “hypoallergenic” in Europe would not be labeled that way in the U.S., for example, because they’re not meant for kids with an allergy to cow’s milk.
Dr. Steven Abrams, chair of the committee on nutrition at the American Academy of Pediatrics, told the Times that he would “strongly discourage” parents from using formulas that aren’t regulated by the FDA:
Infant formula “has to be absolutely nutritionally complete and handled in a very safe way, from the moment of manufacture to the moment it gets into their house and into the baby,” Dr. Abrams said. “The laws and the rules exist for a reason. And that’s because even a single mistake in any of this will just have terrible outcomes for babies.”
There is no conclusive link between these products and any adverse effects or illnesses with American infants who consumed these formulas. But to choose a formula that’s right for you and your baby, the best place to start is with a discussion with your pediatrician.
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