With the UK’s first goats’ milk infant formula set to hit shelves in coming weeks, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is warning consumers that the products are not a suitable alternative for cows’ milk allergic infants.
In a post published on its website, the FSA advised British consumers that infant and follow-on formula products made using goats’ milk are unlikely to be suitable for children with a cows’ milk protein allergy.
“Many parents may be keen to feed their babies formula based on goats’ milk as an alternative if their child’s allergic to cow’s milk," said Sue Hattersely, head of food allergy at the FSA.
"However, there is a high risk of cross reactivity between cows’ and goats’ milk proteins," she said.
“High risk of cross reactivity”
The World Allergy Organization believes that up to 4.9% of children may suffer from an allergy to cows’ milk proteins.
Goats’ milk has been suggested as an alternative for those affected by the affliction, but according to the FSA, studies have shown a high risk of cross-reactivity between the proteins found in cows’ milk and other mammalian milks.
“Although there is little published literature in this area, it is estimated that the majority of infants with a cows’ milk protein allergy will also react to goats’ milk,” said a FSA paper accompanying the statement.
“There will be a small percentage of infants with a cows’ milk protein allergy who may tolerate goats’ milk, however, the suitability of this product for such infants would need to be advised by a healthcare professional.”
This view is backed up by the 2012 European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opinion that led to the addition of goats’ milk protein to the European Commission (EC) Directive on infant formula and follow-on formula in August 2013.
The review concluded that while protein from goat’s milk could be a suitable protein source, there is “no convincing data to support that the incidence of allergic reactions is lower when feeding goat milk-based infant formula compared with cow milk-based infant formula.”
Considering all the evidence, the FSA paper concluded that “the risk of cross-reactivity between cows’ and goats’ milk protein in cows’ milk allergic infants is high and can lead to life threatening reactions.”
The FSA issued its warning as British firm Vitacare prepares to re-launch its long-established NANNYcare Goat Milk Nutrition product as NANNYcare Infant Formula.
The re-launch, which will make NANNYcare Infant Formula the UK’s first official goats’ milk infant formula, was made possible by an amendment to British regulations by the Department of Health (DOH).
The January 2014 rule change brought the UK in line with European Union (EU) law.
Prior to then, only protein sourced from cows’ milk and soya was permitted for use in infant and follow-on formula in the UK.