Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Heath Canada's latest failure hits mothers, babies and pocketbooks.

According to a report written by Canwest reporter Sarah Schmidt, Health Canada has rejected calls from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to restrict infant-formula manufacturers from printing undeserved health claims on their products.

The claim in question has to do with the addition of DHA which is touted to support healthy brain development. Currently Health Canada allows formula manufacturers to include a DHA related health claim even if the formula only contains smelling salt amounts.

According to Sarah's article, in the EU such a claim could only be made if the fatty acid content of the formula is at least 0.3% DHA as this would be the amount required to be consistent with the studies supporting its use. According to the CFIA there are formulas being sold in Canada that contain as little as 0.1%.

Sarah reports that in a letter obtained from an access to information request (click the photo at the top to see part of it) the CFIA pleaded with Health Canada to set a minimum DHA level if a manufacturer wanted to make a claim, with the letter stating,

"It is unfortunate that the Health Canada is removing the proposed revision to require that a food actually contain a significant (source) amount of the nutrient that is subject to the claim, otherwise you end up with situations like this one where a big deal is made about a food containing what appears to be a significant amount of a nutrient.

I would question how a biological role claim could be generally recognized as an aid in an organic function without some source level established as part of the generally recognized role
So what did Health Canada do with CFIA's well grounded concerns and their request that claims only be allowable on products with claim based contents consistent with research?

They denied it.

By denying the CFIA's request Health Canada has given the green light to infant formula manufacturers to continue to peddle insignificant amounts of DHA as brain/baby enhancing which in turn may have the potential to sway some mothers to think that formula is as good as breast and decrease the time they'd decided to breast feed their infants.

Gee thanks Health Canada, you're sure doing a swell job.

(Oh, and guess what, formula with miniscule amounts of DHA costs a heck of a lot more than plain old formula so if you are duped by overly optimistic claims you'll be paying a premium for Health Canada's pandering to industry.)