Haaretz reports that the Israeli court accepted a plea bargain for Israeli Health Ministry officials who failed to inspect infant formula. The faulty soy powder ultimately caused the death of three babies. In 2003, Remedia Israel imported soy formula, manufactured by Humana in Germany. The formula lacked the essential Vitamin B1. Aside from the three babies who died, twenty more suffered serious brain damage. Since the incident the health ministry has been following the other “Remedia babies,” who were symptom-free when the problem was discovered. These children have much higher rates of developmental problems including ADHD, hearing loss and learning disabilities.
Instead of putting the ministry officials in jail or even fining them a respectable sum, the court will require them to do community service—a judge mentioned a “minimum” of 500 hours.
This light sentence leads us to wonder about the accuracy of our food labels.
If the people who are responsible for the quality control of infant formula can get away with skipping inspections, what does that say about the rest of our processed food? The major food manufacturers now know that no one really cares about the claims they make on their labels. If they want to write that the food contains added vitamins, or has no cholesterol or food coloring, no one will check. If someone happen to find out, the manufacturers will be let off with a slap on the wrist.
Israel has failed in its job to protect babies, not just once but twice. Once when the ministry failed to inspect the formula, and again when the court let officials get away with it. Their attitude puts future children at greater risk.
If expectant parents need yet another reason to breastfeed, the price of the local Materna brand, co-owned by Osem and conglomerate Nestle, increased last week by 17%.
Formula manufacture and marketing are an ecological issue. The vast majority of mothers can breastfeed when they get proper information and support, which should never include advertising and marketing from formula companies. Breastfeeding remains the safest, greenest and cheapest way to feed babies.
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