Safety and first aid

Risks to your baby of home-made infant formula

Home-made infant formula

Home-made infant formula recipes are increasingly available online, with no assurance of their safety, nutritional quality or appropriateness for infants.

While these home-made formulas may appear safe and nutritious, this is not assured as it is for commercially produced formulas which are required to meet certain standards. These home-made formulas can present risks to infants through inadequate nutrition and increased food safety risks.

There are specific ingredients in many home-made formula recipes that are of particular concern, from both a nutrition and food safety perspective. Infants are particularly vulnerable to the food safety risks posed by these ingredients, as their immune systems are not yet fully developed. The ingredients listed below are just some of the potential high risk ingredients common in home-made formula recipes.

Raw milk

Many infant formula recipes specify the use of raw milk that has not undergone a pasteurisation process to kill any bacteria that might be present.

Raw milk and raw milk products may come from a number of milking animals including cow, goat, sheep, buffalo, horse and camel. Raw cow’s milk is prohibited for retail sale for human consumption in Australia.

The use of raw milk in home-made formulas presents an increased risk of contamination with bacteria. It also does not provide any dietary advantage compared with pasteurised milk.

Raw milk is known to carry several disease causing organisms including:

  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Salmonellosis
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC)
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Staphyloccocus aureus

Complications from bacteria that can contaminate these products can be extremely severe, such as Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS) caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. HUS can result in renal failure and death in otherwise healthy infants.

The Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines state that any unmodified milk from animal sources is not suitable for infants due to differences in protein and electrolyte concentrations. The Guidelines further state that unmodified milk from animal sources should not be given as a main drink before 12 months of age.

Raw chicken livers

Some home-made infant formula recipes specify the use of raw meat ingredients, particularly raw chicken livers.

The feeding of raw and under-cooked chicken livers to infants is not advised as their immune systems are still developing and there is an increased risk of foodborne illness.

While freezing may lead to a small decrease in the level of contamination of chicken livers, it will not completely eliminate organisms that can cause serious illness in infants.

Raw/partially cooked eggs

The primary hazard of concern for eggs is Salmonella, which can contaminate egg shells through environmental contamination and through contact with bird faeces.

Egg shells are porous and can also have hairline cracks which are not visible to the naked eye, but can still allow disease causing organisms to enter into the egg.

Consuming eggs without an effective heat treatment presents a significant food safety risk to infants.

The feeding of raw and partially cooked eggs to infants is not advised as infant immune systems are still developing and there is an increased risk of foodborne illness, including from Salmonella that may be present on or in eggs.

The Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines state that eggs should not be introduced into an infant’s diet before 6 months of age. The Guidelines also state that to prevent Salmonella poisoning of infants and toddlers aged 6 to 24 months, all eggs should be cooked thoroughly (i.e. until the white is completely set and yolk begins to thicken) and uncooked products containing raw eggs should not be used.

Honey

Honey should not be given to infants younger than 12 months. At this age even small amounts of the organism in honey that causes botulism can be harmful. Honey has been linked to some cases of infant botulism overseas.

Salt

Salt should not be added to infant foods. This is an important precaution as infant kidneys are immature and unable to excrete excess salt.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222

Remember

  • Home-made infant formulas can present risks to infants through inadequate nutrition and increased food safety risks.

Information reproduced with the permission of the NSW Food Authority.


Acknowledgements

Information reproduced with the permission of the NSW Food Authority


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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