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Why babies shouldn’t be given cows’ milk

8 August 2013

Why babies shouldn’t be given cows’ milk

Parents and caregivers are starting to ask Plunket why they can’t just give their babies cows’ milk instead of formula.

Plunket Clinical Advisor Allison Jamieson says that in days gone by, milk was given to babies under 12 months of age but it is no longer recommended.

“International evidence now shows that whole cows’ milk is not suitable for babies under 12 months of age because it contains higher levels of protein and salt than are safe for babies immature kidneys. It also does not provide the vitamins and minerals a growing baby needs, especially iron”, she says.

“Infant formula is made for babies up to 12 months old who, for a number of reasons, are not breastfed. Ministry of Health advice is that babies up to six months of age who aren’t breastfed must only have formula. Formula meets the complete energy and nutritional requirements for a healthy full-term infant up to six months of age.

“At around 6 months of age a baby will be ready to start solid food but breast milk or formula should remain the main drink until baby is a year old. Babies over six months may be offered water but other drinks - such as juice, condensed or evaporated milks, fizzy and sports drinks - can make them sick”.

Two lines of Nutricia Karicare infant formula have been recalled following advice from the Ministry for Primary Industry that there is a potential food safety issue relating to contamination of some batches of milk whey protein used in infant formula.

The latest information from the Ministry for Primary Industries, as at 1pm on Wednesday August is that the following products have been recalled:
• Nutricia Karicare Stage 1 infant formula (0-6 months) – all batches including sachets
• Nutricia Karicare Gold+ Stage 2 follow on formula (6-12 months ) – all batches including sachets

Other Karicare products have not been recalled. There are many other formulas available.

This is an evolving situation - please keep referring to for the most up-to-date official information.

If you are uncertain what to do, call PlunketLine (0800 933 922) to talk to a Plunket nurse. If you are concerned about your child’s health call Healthline (0800 611116), or talk to your family doctor.

For more information about infant nutrition, the Ministry of Health’s Food and Nutrition Guidelines for infants are available on their website:

Further Information for Families and Whanau

Switching to a new formula
There are many formulas available. There is no evidence that one company’s formula is better than another’s.

Change to a formula for the same age range as you were using with Karicare. It doesn't matter too much what brand you switch to. Choose a product that is relevant for your baby’s age, best suits your budget and is readily available from your local store.

Your baby might disagree with the switch at first, but they'll adapt. Your baby may not take the same amount of formula immediately, but they will get used to it really quickly. Just go slowly, and be patient. Aim for small, frequent feeds.

Returning product
Official advice is that you should not continue to use either of the recalled products. If you think you may have the recalled product in your cupboards, please check and return it to the place of purchase. Alternative infant formula should be used in the meantime.

You should be able to return formula, even open cans, to the place of purchase and request a refund. If the store refuses to provide a refund for returned products within recall call the Nutricia Customer Care line 0800-258268.

The retailer must physically take the product from you because the products are subject to a recall and must be returned to the manufacturer via the retailer.

Financial assistance
If you are on a low income, or receive a benefit, Work and Income may be able to help with costs that you are facing because of the Karicare product recall. This could include help with the costs of travelling to the grocery store or to your doctor. To find out what help you might be able to get, contact Work and Income on 0800 559 009.

Karicare infant formula may potentially be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum - a food poisoning bacteria that can cause infant botulism.

Botulism is very rare in New Zealand; the last cases were reported in 1985

Symptoms of botulism in a child include unusual weakness, difficulty feeding, weak cry and having a floppy head. Parents or caregivers who are concerned their child may have botulism should consult a medical professional immediately.

If your child does start showing signs of illness, take them to a doctor immediately. You can also phone Healthline on 0800 611116 if your child is ill.


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