The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) has issued a warning to the Kiwi parents to stop using a popular baby formula for fear that it has additives not cleared for use in New Zealand. This warning has raised fresh concern regarding the safety of baby food in the country.
The NZFSA raised concern that the food has a laxative-type ingredient in the baby formula.
Four Nutricia Karicare Gold Plus products produced by the Dutch company have been on the shelves of the super market for the past six months. It is also in use at more than half of the country's hospitals. The four products identified as a risk by the authority were Karicare Nutriprem Gold Plus Ready to Feed Pre-term Formula, Karicare Gold Plus Ready-to-Feed Infant Formula, Karicare Gold Plus Infant Formula and Karicare Gold Plus Follow-On Formula.
The authority's acting director-general, Andrew McKenzie, issued the warning, saying the products contained fructo-oligosaccharides (Fos) used to soften babies' bowel motions. He said the use of Fos made such products "non-compliant under the joint Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code". Fos, which is refined from vegetable matter and can be synthetically produced, is permitted in Europe.
The authority has asked the company to remove the products from the market.
The company has refuted the NZFSA charges and refused to pull down the product from the market.
This warning comes in the wake of the last month's recall of Chinese tooth paste containing a chemical used in anti-freeze.
These incidents have exposed the laxity of the safety regime officials. Ultimately the consumers themselves have to take precautions like reading the labels to protect themselves.
Some parents had complained that they babies had diarrhea when they used the formula.
But NZFSA officials were unable to enforce a recall because under New Zealand law they would first have to prove Fos was harming children.
NZFSA compliance and investigation director Geoff Allen said New Zealand babies should not be used "as a test case".
"We are talking about the most vulnerable part of the New Zealand population and one that is the most exposed to this particular product. I don't think we could afford to take any risks," he said. "We have no evidence to show that this product is unsafe, causing illness or causing ill health in people in New Zealand. If we had, we would have recalled the product."
Nutricia Australia and New Zealand managing director Toni Brendish said the company was "extremely disappointed" and that its infant formulas were safe. She said Fos, also called inulin, had been a permitted food ingredient since 2001 and she was confused by the NZFSA's ruling.
The NZFSA and Nutricia say they will now go to court to seek a judicial interpretation of the laws involved.