Baby formula crusade criticised

A SENIOR paediatrician has described a campaign by parents to have a popular baby formula pulled from shelves as unfounded and alarming.

Nestle carried out tests of Nestle NAN HA Gold baby formula after complaints from parents that a change of recipe was to blame for symptoms including body rashes, dehydration and irritability.

It said tests had found the product safe, prompting further outcry from parents. The ''Recall All Nestle NAN HA Gold Baby Formula'' Facebook page was created and has attracted more than 1600 parents.

John Sinn, a senior paediatrician, allergist and neonatologist at Royal North Shore Hospital, said that the ongoing campaign was unfounded and risked worrying parents unnecessarily.

''We do use this formula and I have not seen reactions in any of my patients,'' Associate Professor Sinn said. ''The use of mass media and Facebook by some groups these days really causes a lot of anxiety and grief, leading parents to associate the symptoms of their child with the formula.'' He cited another brand of baby formula which changed its label, but not the recipe, in the past, causing parents to claim their babies were getting sick.

''It's a placebo effect and, while I don't deny their symptoms are there, it is no justification for claims this formula is unsafe,'' he said.

He said it was ''perfectly normal'' for babies to respond better to some formulas, adding that rashes were common in children, with allergies on the rise.

''There is no way we would wait for Nestle to pull a product off the shelf if we thought it was at all unsafe,'' he said. ''We would just stop using it.''

The founder of the Facebook campaign, Sarah Knispel, said Associate Professor Sinn's comments devalued the feedback from parents.

''We are really concerned that Nestle never alerted parents to the recipe change on their product label, so parents had no way of knowing that the new recipe may be the cause of sudden irritability and symptoms in their child,'' she said. The Chief Paediatrician for NSW Health, Les White, said there was no evidence the change of formulation was physically harmful to babies and that parents should change formulas if concerned.

''Independent comprehensive testing has been co-ordinated by the NSW Food Authority and has confirmed there are no food safety issues with Nestle NAN HA infant formula,'' he said.

A Nestle spokeswoman said the company was looking at more effective ways of communicating information to consumers.

'I knew something wasn't right'

Sarah Knispel did not know what was causing her baby daughter Cleo to break out in a rash on her face, vomit and become irritable. But when a week went by with no change, she ''knew something wasn't right''.

Then she heard of other babies experiencing similar symptoms after being placed on Nestle NAN HA Gold baby formula. ''Cleo had been on the stage 2, 900-gram tins of this formula for over two months with no issues before we ran out and started using the new 800-gram tins.''

There had been a recipe change, which she said caused Cleo, now 8½ months, to get sick. ''I purchased a different formula and gave it to her,'' said Mrs Knispel, who founded the Facebook page that is calling for a recall. ''After three bottles, the red rash had started to clear. That following night, she slept through and stopped waking from thirst.''

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