Italian Study Cites Contamination Risk in Infant Formulas

April 7, 2011

Researchers tested 21 brands of infant and baby nutrition products.

Research published in the Journal of Pediatrics is raising concern about mycoestrogens, contaminants found in infant formulas and baby foods. University of Pisa scientists tested Italian brands of infant formula and meat-based baby foods, only to find that zearalenone-a mycotoxin derived from Fusarium fungus-and its derivatives were in 28% of the products they tested.

Zearalenone is known for its presence in commercial farming. The mycotoxin has been reported as causing infertility and abortion problems in cattle and pigs, but its consequences on human health are less understood-and science suggests grown adults can naturally break down zearalenone to a safe level.

The scientists tested 185 individual formulas and 44 individual food products, according to Reuters Health, which interviewed lead scientist Francesco Massart about his study’s implications.

“Children, and in particular preterm newborns, are potentially exposed to higher dose of mycotoxins during their early phases of life, but no one knows the long-term effects,” said Massart who said the study’s findings should be of concern to parents using baby formula.

Massart went on to suggest to Reuters that studies should be conducted to establish safe levels of zearalenone derivatives for commercial agriculture.

According to Reuters, the levels of mycotoxins found in the sampled products were generally well below the maximum tolerable daily intake established by the World Health Organization, but beta-zeralenol was found in four times the recommended maximum in infant formula.