FSANZ is aware of a recent study by the Hong Kong Consumer Council in which 15 infant formula products sampled contained detections of 3-Monochloropropanediol (3-MCPD).
3-MCPD and glycidyl esters (GE) occur in food as a result of high temperature refining of vegetable oils that are ingredients of many foods including infant formulas.
In 2017 New Zealand Food Safety, with input from FSANZ, conducted a snapshot survey of vegetable oils and infant formula for 3-MCPD, glycidol and their esters.
The purpose of the survey was to establish suitable methodology for measuring these substances and to assess levels in oils and formula. Infant formula was surveyed because it can be the sole source of nutrition for infants.
The levels of 3-MCPD esters and GE detected in the New Zealand study were very low and similar to those found internationally.
FSANZ completed a risk assessment for infant formula which found the dietary exposure to 3-MCPD does not present a health risk.
For GE, margins of exposure were found to be within the range considered to be of possible concern by JECFA. However, FSANZ notes that they are comparable to those observed internationally.
The benefits of continuing to provide formula to infants far outweighs any potential health concerns associated with low levels of these substances in some formula products.
Parents and carers should not be concerned about the safety of infant formula sold in Australia and New Zealand.
Infant formula has some of the strictest requirements in the Food Standards Code. This to ensure infant formula does not pose a risk to infant health and continues to be a safe and suitable alternative to breastmilk.
Oils are added to formula to ensure the right energy balance and essential fatty acids are present to support infant growth and development.
Agencies around the world, including FSANZ, continue to work with industry to ensure levels are as low as possible.
Codex (the international food standards body) has adopted a Code of Practice, which along with other existing measures, is being used by industry to minimise levels of these substances.