Baby Foods: Milk under EU microscope

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The Independent Online
The European Commission will announce within the next day or so whether it believes babies are at risk from the nine powdered milk products found to contain low levels of harmful chemicals. It will also decide whether to ask the Government to publish the brand names of the baby foods tested.

Experts in Brussels began evaluating a report supplied by the Government yesterday but said they would need at least 48 hours to decide if the findings represent a health risk.

No brand names were contained in the 10-page report forwarded in compliance with a commission request on Wednesday. A spokesman said that at this stage the commission had asked only for details of the levels of phthalates found and the methodology used by British researchers.

"It is too soon to say if we agree with the Department of Health's opinion that there is no risk. It is quite a complex calculation so we may need to call in outside experts," the spokesman said.

Other member states would be entitled to invoke public health safeguards in the EU treaty to ban imports of the brands tested if the commission alerts them to an "urgent or imminent" risk, he added.

The baby milk scare could be placed on the agenda of the EU Scientific Committee for Food which is scheduled to meet next week if either the commission or another government thinks action at EU level is justified.

The commission sought information from Britain under its rapid reaction system for health scares. This obliges member states to report to Brussels on serious problems within 24 hours so it can assess whether citizens in other parts of the EU are at risk.