German infant formula maker Humana remains surrounded by controversy as conflicting reports fail to confirm responsibility for the modifications to its soy formula, linked to the death of three babies in Israel.
The company yesterday admitted that its formula contained significantly less vitamin B1 (thiamine) than stated on the label. Humana said tests had shown that the product contained between 29 and 37 micrograms of vitamin B-1 per 100 grams, less than one-tenth of the labelled amount.
"This is a one-time sequence of unfortunate circumstances," said Albert Grosse Frie, the Humana CEO.
However other reports suggest that the missing vitamin, responsible for severe thiamine deficiency in 17 babies, leaving three dead and causing neurological and other problems in the others, may have been a conscious change to the formula.
There is confusion over responsibility for the 'error'. According to the Jerusalem Post, Humana said that it believed that soybeans contained sufficient quantities of the vitamin - which had been included in the formula until April. Others say the vitamin was removed 'at the request of' the Israeli importer Remedia. However Remedia officials claim they had asked only for a minor change in the fat composition of the formula and that they were completely unaware of the significant removal of the vitamin.
The paper added that any change in formula requires a new license from Israel's health authorities and since neither firm told the ministry of the new composition, the sale of the product was in fact illegal.
Remedia officials are to be questioned today by a police investigation.
The UK's Food Standards Agency has advising parents about the kosher infant formula, not believed to be available in the UK, but possibly brought into the country by a specialist importer or parents after visiting Israel.
It has recalled two Remedia products, Tzimchit Super Formula and Junior Tzimchit Super Formula. The agency has asked local authorities to ensure that if these products are being stocked by shops selling kosher goods, they are removed from sale. A kosher milk product called Super Formula Junior which is sold by Remedia in the UK is not affected.