Frequently asked questions

1. Can infant formula expose the baby to contaminants?

Extremely low maximum levels are set for contaminants in legislation. However, so far there has not been enough information about all contaminants for purposes of legislative development. Some harmful contaminants may be produced in the processing of, for example, vegetable oils and certain other foods. Because of this, the European Food Safety Authority EFSA has stated that infant formulae can cause exposure to the intake of these contaminants.

At present, there is no cause to issue specific recommendations to restrict the use of any foods.

Such contaminants produced in the processing of foods include, for example, glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE), 3-monochloropropanediol (3-MCPD), and 2-monochloropropanediol (2-MCPD) and their fatty acid esters. These substances are produced particularly when vegetable oils are heated to a high temperature (more than 200°C).

The highest levels have been found in palm oils and palm fats. Clearly lower levels have been detected also in other vegetable oils and fats.

Of these substances, glycidyl is carcinogenic and genotoxic, i.e., it damages the genetic information within a cell. The other compounds have adverse effects mainly on the kidneys and the testicles.

Harmful contaminants may also find their way into infant formulae. Exposure to glycidyl fatty acid esters can be ten times higher than the safe exposure level for babies exclusively fed on infant formulae.

For children over three years of age, the most important intake sources were margarines and baked products.

According to the nutrition recommendations for children that the National Nutrition Council published in January 2016, breast milk is adequate as the sole source of nutrition for the first six months for most babies of normal weight. If breast feeding is not possible, infant formulae shall be used in compliance with the instructions of the child health clinic to satisfy the nutritional requirements of the baby.

After infancy, the best way to avoid any contaminants contained in foods is to follow a balanced, diverse and moderate diet. This will ensure the intake of all necessary nutrients and also support the safety of food.

EFSA published in 2016 an assessment of the substances produced in the processing of foods: