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Hong Kong pulls Japanese infant formula from shelves over iodine levels

By Mark Astley , 10-Aug-2012

Hong Kong pulls infant formula from shelves over iodine levels

Authorities in Hong Kong have ordered the recall of two Japanese-manufactured powdered infant formula products after tests found iodine levels in the products were too low.

The Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety (CFS) has ordered retailers in the region to remove all 850g tubs of Japanese-manufactured Wakodo zero to nine months and Morinaga zero to nine months powdered infant formula products from shelves.

The recall was ordered after tests by the authority found “rather low” levels of iodine in the two products.

The CFS is urging parents not to let their children consumer the products as they could have “adverse health effects on infants.”

Iodine is an essential nutrient which stimulates the production of thyroid hormones. In the body, thyroid hormones are responsible for some metabolic processes and are required for normal growth, bone formation and the development of the brain.

Retail sampling

Earlier this month, the CFS conducted tests on a total of 14 powdered infant formula samples available at local retail outlets.

The authority tested the infant formula samples for 33 essential nutrients, including iodine – as defined by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

“Results showed that the iodine content of two samples were rather low. Iodine is an essential micronutrient required for normal bodily function, growth and development,” said a CFS statement.

“This may affect the functioning of the thyroid gland. If the thyroid gland’s normal functions are significantly affected, there may be potential impact on the brain develop of infants.”

“The CFS has informed the relevant importers of the test results. They have now stopped sale of the products concerned and initiated a product recall. Those who have bought the affected products should stop feeding their infants with those products and consider switching to another brand of infant formula.”

WHO recommendations

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends dietary intake of iodine for infants aged zero to 12 months at 15μg/kg body/weight per day – the equivalent of 90μg/kg for a 6kg baby.

Based on the WHO recommendation, the Hong Kong Department of Health has urged the parents of infants aged one to eight months who take the affected products to make appointments for thyroid function tests.

As of 4pm yesterday, the DH hotline has received almost 2,500 enquiries from members of the public about the issue.

“Eighty-four callers claimed that their infants are mainly consuming the concerned infant formulae. They have been advised to change to another brand of cow milk-based formula with adequate content of iodine,” said the Department of Health.

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