The FCC standards, published by the US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), are voluntary industry standards that are internationally recognised and aim to ensure an ingredient’s quality for consumers as well as for food manufacturers who purchase the ingredient for use in their products.
The USP said the proposed standards relate to three nucleotides, present in breast milk and commonly added to infant formula - Disodium 5’-Uridylate, 5’-Adenylic Acid and 5’-Cytidylic Acid - and two docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) oils, essential omega-3 fatty acids often added to both infant formula and a host of functional foods.
According to the USP, the new standards will allow purchasers to feel confident that an ingredient is reasonably free of harmful contaminants, is consistent from one batch to the next and has not been diluted with water or otherwise tampered with through the addition or substitution of other, less-expensive ingredients.
The group also stresses that the three new FCC standards include validated test methods that provide an accurate and repeatable means of measuring the ingredients’ components, and corresponding reference materials, to give manufacturers and regulators powerful tools to catch and discourage bad actors, and thus help to restore a shaken public confidence in food products.
Indeed there has been concern about constituent parts of infant nutrition formulas in the wake of food contamination scares such as the melamine incident stemming from China in 2008, where large quantities of melamine were deliberately added to give the powder the appearance of having adequate protein levels
And US produced infant formula also was found to contain the chemical, albeit at levels too low to pose any public health risk.
Following the Chinese scandal, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) urged infant formula manufacturers to invest further in safety controls in order to regain public confidence.
Patti Rundall, policy director of Baby Milk Action, a group which campaigns to promote breast-feeding and to make formula feeding safer, said that infant formula is not a sterile product and is not being tested enough to ensure its safety.
But, according to Jorgen Schlundt, director of the WHO food safety department: "While breastfeeding is the ideal way of providing infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development - it is also critical to ensure that there is an adequate supply of safe powdered infant formula to meet the needs of infants who are not breastfed.”
The USP said comments from industry will be considered by its Food Ingredients Expert Committee, a group of independent scientific experts that oversees FCC standards, with views accepted through to 31 March.
It said that the final standards will be published on 31 August 2010. The standards can be reviewed here.