Monday, June 4, 2007

Forumulaic Formula

I have to admit, I am weary of reporting the news. And it's weird to be writing a breastfeeding blog when I am not quite breastfeeding yet. Then, I came across this article about formula companies promoting their products in the Philippines and I perked up. Sort of. Not really. The article points out that
"just 16% of children between four and five months old are exclusively breastfed. This is one of the lowest documented rates on earth, and it has fallen by a third since 1998. As 70% of Filipinos have inadequate access to clean water, the result is a public health disaster. Every year, according to the World Health Organization, some 16,000 Filipino children die as a result of "inappropriate feeding practices."
The article goes on to pinpoint some of the marketing tactics conducted by the formula companies and then goes on to say this:
"The U.S. embassy and the U.S. regional trade representative started lobbying the Philippines government. Then the chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. - which represents 3 million businesses - wrote a letter to the president of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo. The new rules, he claimed, would have "unintended negative consequences for investors' confidence". The country's reputation "as a stable and viable destination for investment is at risk". Four days later, the supreme court reversed its decision and imposed the restraining order PHAP had requested. It remains in force today. The government is currently unable to prevent companies from breaking the international code."

The article horrified and left me slightly depressed. I try SO hard to be open about formula and to not be judgmental. Then, I see companies pushing formula in countries where much of the population doesn't even have consistent access to a safe water supply. Frankly, my Pollyanna Veneer is wearing thin the more and more I see these sorts of articles. Of course, it's not unusual for Western companies to move their marketing tactics to developing nations when their Western consumers smarten up (Totally Tangential: Cigarette and cosmetic companies come to mind. Unilever, the maker of Dove products, has made a killing with their "real beauty" campaign in the US, yet they market skin lightening creams in India and South East Asia. Apparently, "real beauty" is defined as "white skin".) And yes -- the irony, of course, is that a group of breastfeeding mothers just recently broke the Guinness World Record for simultaneous breastfeeding.

Then, THEN, I read this bit about CORN SYRUP in formula. What the HELL? I received some free cans of formula when my son was born and I shoved them into a cabinet - I had intentions of donating them, but got lazy. I pulled them down this morning and started reading the ingredients:
1. The can of Enfamil milk-based formula has lactose listed as the 2nd ingredient, followed by a myriad of unpronounceable items including palm and coconut oils.
2. The can of Similac soy formula has corn syrup solids listed as the FIRST ingredient and also includes palm and coconut oils.
3. The can of Similac milk-based formula also has lactose listed as the 2nd ingredient, followed by a myriad of unpronounceable items including palm and coconut oils

Okay. I am not a health nut. And with this pregnancy, we've eaten far too much fast food because I'm just trying to get by - my end date for what I refer to as "Meals of Shame" is August 1, 2007 (I just want to get through the pregnancy and the first month of breastfeeding/sleep deprivation). However, when I shop at the grocery store, I'm fairly persnickety about reading labels and do try to avoid the bad oils (anything hydrogenated and most definitely palm and coconut) in addition to the corn syrup. Frankly, there's some crapola in those cans of formula that I wouldn't feel good about my toddler consuming, much less my newborn. And no, this isn't about judging parents. This is about judging the formula companies who are obviously putting these powders together to achieve as long as a shelf life as possible. The expiration dates of the Similac cans are early 2008 and the Enfamil expires this summer --- yet I received these cans in October of 2005. The corn syrup solids are particularly worrisome in light of all the research that shows corn syrup can mess with your metabolism.

At this point, I am at a loss for words for any sort of conclusion.

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