WHO says mother’s milk best for infant health
HA NOI — Breast-feeding infants is an effective way to prevent them from being exposed to unsafe foods, said Dr Jean-Marc Olive, World Health Organisation Representative to Viet Nam, yesterday.
At a press briefing held by the WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) in response to the contaminated milk scandal in China, Olive said the scandal highlighted the need to breast-feed infants for at least six months to help enhance growth and brain development.
“However, a recent survey reveals that only 17 per cent of Vietnamese infants were breast-fed exclusively for the first six months of life. In recent years, there has been an increase in bottle-feeding,” he said.
“The majority of Chinese children hospitalised after the tainted milk scandal were treated for kidney stones as a result of drinking milk containing melamine. Therefore, breast-feeding will help to protect infants from being affected by contaminated products and diseases,” he added.
Melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastics and fertiliser, is added to milk and other food products to give the appearance of higher protein levels.
“The problem has the full attention of the Chinese Government and swift and far-reaching actions are expected to be taken to protect children,” he said.
A recent investigation into imported milk products in Viet Nam revealed that an alarming quantity of unsafe food from other countries is being freely traded on the local market, including Chinese milk products containing melamine. However, no cases of Vietnamese children getting sick from tainted milk have been reported so far.
The Ministry of Health has ordered authorities to ban the sale of milk products found to contain melamine in Viet Nam, and also ban the import of milk-based products with non standard labels.
In order to protect children from unsafe foods, Unicef Chief of Health and Nutrition in Viet Nam, Marjatta Tolvanen-Ojutkangas, pointed out the need for the Government to put forth comprehensive food safety laws and strictly enforce them, she also noted the Government should carry out checks and respond quickly to food safety breaches.
“Co-operation between relevant ministries and agencies, as well as among countries, is needed to timely share information and seek solutions to food safety violations,” she said.
International organisations like Unicef and WHO have been working with Vietnamese authorities to build legislation and boost training to help improve the country’s capacity to detect contaminated food products, and diagnose and treat problems.
FAO urges removing melamine
Yesterday the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said products containing melamine should be removed from trade to ensure safe infant feeding.
More than a dozen countries in Asia, Africa and Europe have banned imports of Chinese dairy products after thousands of Chinese children got sick after drinking infant milk formula tainted with melamine, an industrial chemical. Other countries from Australia to Yemen have recalled milk products.
“Restoring consumer confidence is critical,” Ezzeddine Boutrif, director of FAO’s nutrition and consumer protection division, said in a statement.
More than 54,000 children have sought medical treatment in China related to the use of melamine-contaminated infant formula and almost 12,900 have been hospitalised.
Both FAO and WHO urged countries to monitor their markets and said melamine-contaminated products could hit markets through both formal and informal trade.
The European Commission proposed on Thursday to test and restrict imports of food products from China containing powdered milk.
In Hong Kong, five children have been affected by melamine tainted milk.
Meanwhile, Macao’s health authorities have confirmed that three milk products, including biscuits, liquid milk and baby formula, sold in Macao were found to be contaminated with melamine. — VNS/XINHUA
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