Govt accused of being secretive about baby formula scandal


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The Indonesian Breast-Feeding Mothers Association (AIMI) has demanded that the government be more transparent about the key ingredients used in baby formula products following the contamination scandal hitting New Zealand’s giant milk producer Fonterra. 

“The government must announced explicitly whether or not the key ingredients used for infant formula products imported from New Zealand and Australia have used the materials contaminated with bacteria,” AIMI chairperson Mia Sutanto told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

On Sunday, the Indonesian authorities had informed that they still had good faith in reports from Fonterra that no contaminated products had entered into Indonesian market.

Fonterra announced on Saturday that three batches of whey protein concentrate were contaminated with poisonous bacteria known as Clostridioum Botulinum. The bacteria, according to Reuters on Sunday, is often found in soil and can cause botulism, a potentially fatal disease that affects the muscles, ignites respiratory problems and attacks infant’s intestinal systems.

Mia said that the public, as consumers, needed to know any information about formula products, which had been mushrooming in the past few years. “We can easily find many brands of infant formula products sold in the market and the number of them has exceeded what we as mothers need,” she said.

She added that mothers often received incorrect and blurred information regarding the ingredients of baby formula products. 

AIPMI said that the Fonterra scandal should be used by the government to step up campaigns on breastfeeding and curb the selling of baby formula in the country. 

Mia said this was not the first scandal in which baby formula products were revealed to contain hazardous materials. 

She cited a case in 2008 where research conducted by Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) found that samples of baby formula they took were contaminated by enterobacter sakazaki bacteria. At the time, both the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) and the Ministry of Health refused to announce to public about the brands name and ignored a Supreme Court ruling that ordered the ministry to reveal identities of formula products containing sakazaki bacteria. “The governments of foreign countries are very open on revealing information on formula products. Why can’t we do the same?” she said.

BPOM said in a statement on Monday that the National Emergency Contact Point for the International Food Safety Network (INFOSAN), had not received any information related to the contamination scandal in New Zealand. It said that according to the official report from Fonterra, Indonesia was not among eight countries, for which the contaminated materials are exported in products such as food and beverages as well as animal feed.

“So far, the agency has prohibited infant formula products with whey protein concentrate to enter Indonesian markets,” said BPOM deputy chief for food safety and hazardous substance control Roy A. Sparringa.

Meanwhile, Bagus Kuncoro, the HR&Corporate Affairs PT Fonterra Brands Indonesia said that the company had coordinated with BPOM relating to the contaminated infant formula scandal of its main company in New Zealand.

“We have confirmed to BPOM that Fonterra New Zealand doesn’t export contaminated infant formula, which uses whey protein concentrate as its materials, to Indonesia,” he said, adding that all the Fonterra dairy products in Indonesia were safe to consume.

Mia said that mothers should be cautious in choosing baby formula products and do their best to breastfeed. (tam)

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