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Product Recalls and Safety Alerts

Two Japanese infant formulae found to have low iodine conten (August 08, 2012)

The Centre for Food Safety of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (August 8) called on parents not to let their babies consume two powdered infant formulae imported from Japan, Wakodo (right) and Morinaga (left), as their iodine content are rather low and may have potential adverse health effects on infants.The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (August 8) called on parents not to let their babies consume two powdered infant formulae imported from Japan as their iodine content are rather low and could have potential adverse health effects on infants. The trade should also stop selling the products.

Details of two powdered infant formulae are as follows:The CenThe Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (August 8) called on parents not to let their babies consume two powdered infant formulae imported from Japan as their iodine content are rather low and could have potential adverse health effects on infants. The trade should also stop selling the products.

Details of two powdered infant formulae are as follows:
 
(1) Product name: Wakodo (for 0 to 9 months old)
Manufacturer: Wakodo Co. Ltd
Place of origin: Japan
Net weight: 850 grams
Batch number: All batches

(2) Product name: Morinaga (for 0 to 9 months old)
Manufacturer: Morinaga & Co. Ltd
Place of origin: Japan
Net weight: 850 grams
Batch number: All batches

A spokesman for the CFS said, "The CFS has taken 14 samples of powdered infant formulae at local outlets for testings of their content of energy and 33 essential nutrients defined by Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex). Results showed that the iodine content of two samples were rather low (see attached table). Iodine is an essential micronutrient required for normal bodily function, growth and development."

"When infants are fed according to the instructions provided by the manufacturers as printed on the label of these two infant formulae, even after taking into account the iodine content in tap water, the iodine intake of infants relying on milk reconstituted by these formulae as the sole source of nutrition would be less than one third of the value recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), i.e. 15 microgram per kilogramme (kg) of body weight. 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 development of infants," the spokesman said.

Although the samples came from only one batch of each product, to be prudent, the CFS advises the public to stop feeding infants with these two products.

"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," the spokesman said.

"A list of powdered infant formulae providing choices for consideration and other frequently asked questions regarding the health of infants will be uploaded on the CFS website for information and reference," he added.

On the other hand, the CFS has stepped up sampling of powdered formulae catered for infants below six months old available in the market for testing of their iodine content. Test results of other Japanese brands of infant formulae available for sale in Hong Kong will be announced later this week while tests of iodine content on other infant formulae manufactured in other countries will be completed within this month, the spokesman said.

The CFS will take appropriate follow-up actions if the findings on the iodine content of the samples may indicate potential health impacts on infants.

CFS has set up hotlines, 3978 0600, for any related enquiries. It operates from 9am to 10pm during weekdays and from 9am to 9pm during weekends and public holidays. Consumers may also call the importer of Wakodo, ASA Pacific (HK) Ltd (hotline: 2408 2193) and that of Morinaga, Yamakawa (HK) Limited (hotline: 2487 3453), for enquiries about recall arrangements.

Turning to the advice for parents, the Administration has formed a Steering Committee on Iodine Deficiency in Infant Formula (SC) to review the laboratory results and formulate the follow-up strategies. As recommended by the SC, infants who are taking Wakodo and Morinage should change to another brand of cow milk-based formula with adequate content of iodine.

The SC reminded that parents should study the iodine content in the label of infant formula. They can change to another brand of cow milk-based infant formula with iodine content as recommended by Codex for infant formula (10-60μg(microgram)/100 kcal) .

A spokesman for the Department of Health (DH) said the department has set up a hotline (2125 1111) operating daily from 9am to 9pm starting from today. DH will also arrange ten Maternal and Child Health Centres (MCHC) as designated clinics (DC) to provide thyroid function test for infants of one to eight months old who are taking Wakodo and Morinaga.

Infants less than one month old have iodine reserve from mothers and the risk of iodine deficiency resulting from intake of these formulae for a short time is relatively low. Parents should change to another infant formula with adequate iodine content. Breastfeeding remains the best choice for infants.  Lactating mothers are advised to eat a diet with adequate iodine. 

Infants older than eight months should have had additional iodine intake from complementary food and/or cow's milk and their risk of iodine deficiency would decrease.

Appointment discs will be distributed at ten DCs from August 9 (Thursday) during office hours (9am-5.30pm during weekdays) and operation hours of DCs during weekends. If parents are worried, they may call the hotline or make an appointment for their infants to have blood testing for thyroid function at the ten DCs. 

The ten designated MCHCs are:

Hong Kong Region:
* Sai Wan Ho MCHC (2/F, Sai Wan Ho Health Centre, 28 Tai Hong Street, Sai Wan Ho)
* Sai Ying Pun MCHC (4/F, Sai Ying Pun Jockey Club Polyclinic, 134 Queen's Road West, Sai Ying Pun)

Kowloon Region:
* Lam Tin MCHC (1/F, Lam Tin Polyclinic, 99 Kai Tin Road, Lam Tin)
* West Kowloon MCHC (2/F, West Kowloon Health Centre, Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices, 303 Cheung Sha Wan Road, Sham Shui Po)
* Wu York Yu MCHC (1/F, Wu York Yu Health Centre, 55 Sheung Fung Street, Wong Tai Sin)

New Territories East Region:
* Fanling MCHC  (3/F & 5/F, Fanling Health Centre, 2 Pik Fung Road, Fanling)
* Lek Yuen MCHC (2/F, Lek Yuen Health Centre, 9 Lek Yuen Street, Shatin)
* Tseung Kwan O Po Ling Road MCHC (1/F, Tseung Kwan O Po Ning Road Health Centre, 28 Po Ning Road, Tseung Kwan O)

The ten MCHCs will be operated to provide blood testing from 6pm to 10pm on August 10 (Friday). The operating hours are as follows and will be adjusted after review of the service demand.

Operating hours of the ten MCHCs for blood testing:

Monday to Friday : 6pm to 10pm
Saturday : noon to 9pm
Sunday: 9am to 9pm

Parents or care-takers are advised to bring along immunization card (DH6) or the birth certificate to register and collect the appointment disc. Updated information will be uploaded to the DH's website (www.dh.gov.hk) for public reference.

"The safety of infant formulae available for sale in Hong Kong is regulated by the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132) and its subsidiary legislation. The CFS took milk powder samples for chemical, microbiological and radiological tests under the food surveillance programme," the CFS spokesman said.

In view of the latest development, the spokesman said, the Administration is preparing to formulate as soon as possible regulatory proposals regarding the nutritional composition and nutrition labelling of infant formulae and kick-start legislative preparatory work.

(Reprinted from HKSAR Government web page :
http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201208/08/P201208080584.htm )