Concerns over chemical contamination of baby milk

The EU’s Food Safety Authority states that the packaging ink detected in Nestlé’s liquid baby milk should not present food safety threat at the levels reported.

Italian food safety authorities have discovered that the Nestlé liquid baby milk may have been contaminated by a chemical used in the packaging.

Due to traces of packaging ink in the product, Nestlé has recalled its liquid baby milk from the supermarkets in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Greece.

Traces of packaging ink in the milk were noticed during a routine test for substances in an Italian laboratory, after which countries’ authorities started immediately to seize the milk from the market. Shortly after, the world’s biggest food and drink company Nestlé announced it recalled the milk, as a precautionary measure, in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Greece. 

According to a Commission spokesman Philip Tod, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has determined that the chemical substance isopropylthioxanthone (ITX) should not present a toxic threat at the levels detected in the milk in Italy. “On the basis of the limited data available, the presence of ITX in food could be considered undesirable. However, it is not likely to present an immediate health risk at the levels reported,” he told Reuters

The Nestlé Chief Executive and Chairman Peter Brabeck: "It's nothing. It's a storm in a teacup. There is no risk to safety." 

"The problem also concerns the rest of Europe, where the packages under suspicion are produced and where confiscations have not yet been set in train," said the Italian Agriculture Minister Gianni Alemanno, as quoted in The Guardian

Greenpeace finds that the proposed reform of EU chemical policy (REACH) "could prevent potential threats to infant health such as the contamination of baby milk products, but will fail to do so unless it is strengthened".

Italian police said on 22 November 2005 that it had seized 30 million litres of Nestle liquid baby milk from supermarkets and from depots after it showed traces of a chemical used in packaging. 

According to the UK daily The Guardian, the problem has been known for some time and an alert requiring 'immediate action' was issued on 8 September 2005.

  • The Commission has asked EFSA to carry out tests on the chemical. The results should be ready around April 2006.

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