Safety of Homemade Infant Formulas in Canada

Health Canada advises Canadian parents and caregivers to be aware of the potential health risks associated with homemade infant formulas. Recipes for these formulas are being promoted by certain practitioners who give health advice on the internet and in person.

Homemade infant formulas can cause severe malnutrition and potentially fatal illness in infants.

Homemade infant formulas may not provide the proper balance of nutrients that infants need and may also contain ingredients or be prepared in a manner that can result in contamination by harmful bacteria that cause serious illness. Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society and Dietitians of Canada do not endorse the use of any homemade infant formulas.

Health Canada recommends that Canadians consult their physician, registered nurse or registered dietitian should they have questions about breastfeeding or if they are considering using infant formulas as a breastmilk substitute.

Questions and Answers

What is the optimal food for infants?

Breastfeeding is important for the nutrition, immunologic protection, growth, and development of infants and young children. Health Canada and healthcare professionals promote breastfeeding as the normal and unequalled method for feeding infants and it is recognised internationally ( WHOUNICEF).

What are acceptable alternatives for breastmilk?

For babies who are not being breastfed or receiving breastmilk, only commercial infant formula is recommended by Health Canada as a breastmilk substitute.

Why are homemade infant formulas under scrutiny? Is consumption of homemade formula a risk for infants?

It has come to Health Canada's attention that there are a proliferation of recipes on the internet about homemade infant formulas. There are also some practitioners that are promoting the use of homemade infant formulas to parents and caregivers. Homemade infant formulas may not provide the proper balance of nutrients that infants need and may also contain ingredients or be prepared in a manner that can result in contamination by harmful bacteria that cause serious illness.

What is Health Canada's position on the use of homemade infant formulas?

Health Canada recommends against the consumption of any type of homemade infant formula. Home-made evaporated milk formula, cow milk, goat milk, soy beverage, rice beverage or any other beverages should not be given to young infants. For babies who are not being breastfed or receiving breastmilk, only commercial infant formula is recommended by Health Canada as a breastmilk substitute.

Health Canada recommends that Canadians consult their physician, registered nurse or registered dietitian should they have questions about breastfeeding or are considering using infant formulas as a breastmilk substitute.

What is the opinion of the health professionals on the use of Homemade Infant Formula?

Both the Dietitians of Canada (DC) and the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) advise against the use of homemade infant formulas.

What action has Health Canada taken to inform the public about the risks associated with homemade infant formulas?

Health Canada has issued an  advisory to Canadians regarding the promotion of homemade infant formulas on the Internet and by some practitioners that provide advice about health. Health Canada is committed to maintaining and improving the health and well-being of Canadians and therefore aims to ensure that parents are aware of the potential health and safety risks associated with consuming homemade infant formulas as alternatives to highly-regulated, commercially available infant formulas.

What is the role of Health Canada in regulating infant formulas?

All commercial infant formulas must undergo a full safety and nutritional quality assessment by Health Canada before they can be sold. Formula companies must provide scientific evidence that their products support healthy growth in infants and do not pose chemical or microbiological risks. Formula companies are also required to meet standards for the nutritional content of infant formulas, which include energy, protein, fats, vitamins and mineral nutrients. All manufacturers, importers and distributers of infant formula are responsible for ensuring that their products comply with Canadian legislation.

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