The AFP reported today that baby formula manufactured in China by Synutra International has led babies to “prematurely develop breasts,” as a result of hormones found in the milk powder. Not young girls – babies. Chinese state media confirmed that in babies who were fed the formula, “the levels of hormones in three girls, ranging in age from 15 months to four years, exceeded those of the average adult woman.” So far there is no word as to how the formula has affected baby boys.
To say that this sickens me is a gross understatement.
We all know about how many Chinese-made children’s products have been recalled in the US, but the citizens of China don’t have the same kind of protections we do here. Doctors have suggested that the powder be analysed to discover why it’s causing infants to experience puberty symptoms (hello?!), but local food safety authorities refused. Worse yet, the formula is still being sold, and at discount prices to boot, meaning (as usual) that the poorest people are more likely to suffer the most negative health affects.
Synutra insists its products are safe, saying, “No man-made ‘hormones’ or any illegal substances were added during production” of the formula. There are no regulations against using hormones in Chinese livestock, so it’s likely that estradiol and prolactin (the hormones found in the systems of the girls who were tested), “entered the food chain when farmers reared the cattle,” according to the former chairman of the dairy association in Guangdong province.
AFP notes that, “Chinese dairy products were recalled worldwide in 2008 after it was revealed that melamine, a toxic chemical used to make plastics, was widely and illegally added to the products to give the appearance of higher protein.” Synutra has since recovered financially from what they’ve so glibly dubbed “the melamine incident.” If you’d like a reason to feel enraged, take a look at this chart from their investor relations packet:
How a company can rebound from literally poisoning 300,000 people, I have no idea. Perhaps through the use of clever marketing and the distribution of their infant formula in over 14,000 hospitals nationwide?
Something has to be done to protect mothers and infants in China from these types of abuses, but without government intervention on the part of the Chinese and given that the only concern in America centers around Synutra’s stock price, I fear the worst. I’ve cried a few times posting stories here on Strollerderby, but I’ve never quite felt as nauseous.