Meiji baby milk powder found lacking biotin

Health officials say level of biotin - needed for cell growth - is 50pc lower than it should be

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2012, 4:17am

Japanese brand Meiji has again been found producing baby milk formula that is nutritionally unsound for infants.

The Centre for Food Safety yesterday said Meiji's "capsule" milk powder - which it markets as a travel product and is labelled for infants of up to nine months - contained insufficient biotin.

Levels of biotin were almost 50 per cent lower than the minimum requirement set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a United Nations body aimed at protecting consumer health.

Biotin is needed for cell growth as well as the metabolism of fats and amino acids.

"The sample concerned and another baby formula - which we announced in mid-November had been found to have a low biotin content - were produced under the same brand but with different packaging," a food safety centre spokesman said.

The Codex standard, endorsed by the World Health Organisation, is 1.5 to 10 micrograms of biotin for every 1,000 kilocalories. The Meiji product contained only 0.74 micrograms.

It was the only product deemed unsuitable in the centre's latest tests conducted on 21 infant products, covering 33 compositions or nutrients.

In August, Meiji baby milk formula was found to contain too little of the nutrient iodine, a lack of which can harm the development of the thyroid gland and affect brain function.

The centre urged parents who have bought the product to stop feeding their babies with it, and switch to other products or consider breastfeeding. It also urged retailers to stop selling the product. If fed in accordance with the product labelling, babies would be consuming less than the 5 micrograms of biotin a day recommended by the WHO.

The spokesman said adverse health effects could not be ruled out for babies aged up to six months old relying solely on the Meiji product for their biotin.

"Biotin-deficient infants may show symptoms such as hair loss, rashes, low muscle tone and lethargy," he said. However, he noted that cases of dietary biotin deficiency were rare and did not occur in babies who were breastfed.

Most of the Meiji product sold in Hong Kong is imported on the grey market - by legal distributors, but not approved by the manufacturer. The centre said consumers should direct enquiries to the retailers where they bought the powder.