Asia’s Thirst For Baby Formula Milk Raises Health Concerns

An unquenchable thirst for infant and baby formula in China and Southeast Asia is raising concerns about the health of millions of mothers and their babies.

AsianScientist (Jun. 9, 2016) – An unquenchable thirst for infant and baby formula, especially in China and Southeast Asia, is raising concerns about the health of millions of mothers and their babies.

The findings, published in Public Health Nutrition, showed that growth in formula sales was most rapid in China, Indonesia and Vietnam, where millions of mothers are entering the workforce as the countries industrialize.

“What we are talking about is potentially the largest shift in infant and young child nutrition on record,” said lead researcher Dr. Phillip Baker from Australian National University.

Findings from the study revealed that formula sales worldwide grew by 41 percent from 5.5 kilograms to 7.8 kilograms per infant or child between 2008 and 2013, a figure predicted to increase to 10.8 kilograms by 2018.

This global sales boom applies not only to infant formula for infants aged 0-6 months but also to follow-up formulas for children aged 7-12 months and toddlers aged 13-36 months, which can displace ongoing breastfeeding.

Formula-fed children experience poorer health and developmental outcomes than breastfed children, with increased risks of pneumonia, diarrhea, obesity and Type 2 diabetes, ear infections and asthma, Baker said.

“Paid employment is a very good thing for families, especially those living on the bread line. The problem is that without paid parental leave or family friendly workplaces, breastfeeding can be very difficult or even impossible,” he said.

Without supportive workplace policies and regulations in place, formula feeding is often the only choice available to parents in many countries, Baker said. Furthermore, competition among companies selling baby formula is high, with the industry’s global marketing spend estimated to have exceeded US$4.48 billion in 2014.

The World Health Organization recommends infants are exclusively breastfed up to six months of age, with ongoing breastfeeding for up to two years of age and beyond.

The article can be found at: Baker et al. (2016) Global Trends and Patterns of Commercial Milk-based Formula Sales: Is An Unprecedented Infant and Young Child Feeding Transition Underway?.


Source: Australian National University; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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