Almost as far back as I can remember in terms of FoodsMatter – way back in the ’90s indeed – I recall talking to Claire Magee at ‘Nanny Care’ about their problems in getting their goat milk infant formula recognised by the EU. Over the years I all but gave up asking how the campaign was going, so slow was their progress, so I was really delighted to see that EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority), and therefore the UK authorities, had finally accepted goat’s milk as a suitable base for an infant formula.
Goat milk infant and follow-on formula were developed in New Zealand where they have been available since the early 1990s. But successful though they were ‘down under’ they faced three major barriers in the UK/EU.
One was the fact that the multi-national makers of infant formulae (the Nestlés, SMA, Milupas, Cow and Gate’s etc) were extremely active in drawing up the European Guidelines for the composition of infant formulae. Since they did not make any goat-milk-based formulae themselves, they did not, surprise, surprise, press for its inclusion on the list of acceptable brands. So, while goat milk formula was not actually excluded from the EU’s list, it was not included either – which came to the same thing. Nor did the cow’s milk formula manufacturers, for obvious reasons, show any enthusiasm for revising the list to include goat milk formula, insisting on further, and yet further, studies to demonstrate its suitability.
The second barrier was that the goat milk lobby got little support from medical allergists. They were, very reasonably, concerned that the protein profile of goat’s milk is so similar to that of cow’s milk that infants allergic to cow’s milk would react similarly to goat’s milk. Therefore offering a goat milk formula could cause potentially fatal confusion among the allergic population who might, wrongly, think that goat’s milk would be safe for their cow’s-milk-allergic child.
While this is a totally legitimate concern (explored in considerable depth here on the FoodsMatter site) the fact remains that a significant number of infants and toddlers who react to cow’s milk formula (and who do not have a full blown, IgE mediated allergy) can tolerate goat’s milk formula and follow on formula. Indeed they positively thrive on it. Precisely why this is, no one is sure. It is even possible that it relates to the A2 milk protein profile of goat’s milk as goats produce A2 rather than A1 milk. (For more details on A2 milk see FoodsMatter here.)
None the less the effect was that there was certainly no pressure from the medical profession to ‘license’ goat’s milk formula – if anything, quite the opposite.
And finally they faced opposition from the very active and vociferous breast feeding campaigners. The later are brilliant and I have the greatest respect for them and what they have achieved for breast feeding, However, like many such pressure groups, life comes only in black and white and as far as they were concerned, Nanny formula, whatever the animal it came from, was formula and therefore ‘evil’. (I can remember being torn off a vigourous strip by the then editor of the excellent campaigning Food Magazine for daring to carry an ad for Nanny follow on products in the old Foods Matter magazine – on the grounds that we were breaking the ban on advertising formula milks to the general public….)
However, with heroic persistence, Nanny Care hung in there, set up more studies, applied, re-applied and re-applied again to the EU and hung out around Brussels until they know its every cobblestone. And finally, they have won through!
We will carry a much more detailed report on the FoodsMatter site later in the year when they have their new labelling sorted and when their goat’s milk infant formula is finally on the market – but for now – many, many congratulations!
29th March 2014
A couple of days after this blog went live I got an email from Sue Hattersley, head of the Food Standards Agency Allergy Division, flagging up their concerns about the potential for confusion over the suitability/unsuitability of goats milk for infants and children with cow’s milk allergy – a danger I had already flagged up above, and of which I am all too aware.
I am pleased to say that the FSA has now put up a page on their website encapsulating their concerns and I would recommend any parent of a child who has or may have a cow’s milk protein allergy to read it – and only to experiment with goat milk products in consultation with their GP and/or consultant. As the FSA says, the vast of infant and children who are allergic to cow’s milk protein will also be allergic to goat’s milk proteins.
However, there remain a significant number of infants and children who do not have a cow’s milk protein allergy but still do not thrive on cow’s milk products and tolerate goat’s milk products far better.