Brussels demands names in baby-brands scare

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The Independent Online
The Ministry of Agriculture will today give the names of the nine brands of baby milk at the centre of the chemicals scare to the European Commission, despite steadfastly refusing to do so at home.

The Government was told that it had until this morning to provide details on the chemical contents of the baby milk they tested. A spokesman for Maff said that as soon as the ministry received official notification it would give the commission the information it required.

The commission wants to know the facts about the results of tests which looked at levels of phthalates, linked to impaired fertility, so that any risk elsewhere in Europe can be assessed. In studies by the Medical Research Council, phthalates were found to damage the testicles and reduce the sperm counts of baby rats.

The latest development in the baby-milk alert added to Maff's problems in Europe, but a spokesman for the commission last night ruled out a beef- style ban on British baby milk. However, an agreed mechanism for "rapid exchange of information" between member states exists for the distribution of potentially important facts about food products.

The system involves information requested being relayed to Brussels within 24 hours. "We will pass the information on to all other member states, and they will decide what to do," the spokesman said. "There is no directive allowing the commission to impose a ban in this area."

Meanwhile, for the first time since the scare representatives from Maff met with the Infant and Dietetic Food Association (IDFA) and leading baby-food manufacturers - Cow & Gate, Milupa, SMA Nutrition and Farleys - whose brands have all been found to contain phthalates.

The association, which represents all the baby-milk manufacturers in Britain, confirmed afterwards that all 15 brands of formula milk on the market were affected, but added: "We reviewed the scientific data and interpretation of the results and confirmed that there is no significant difference between any of the 15 brands and that there is no health risk to infants at the levels detected."

The Government's deputy chief medical officer yesterday contacted all directors of public health to tell them to pass on information to health workers. He advised that parents should not change their baby's feeding routine and confirmed that there were unlikely to be any risks from levels of phthalates in infant formula.

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