Baby Formula Makers Blamed for 500% Increase in Cows' Milk Protein Allergy – Inverse

Baby Formula Makers Blamed for 500% Increase in Cows' Milk Protein Allergy – Inverse

If a baby is allergic to milk, it’s common sense to avoid milk. But what if parents mistakenly thought their baby was allergic? And worse, what if someone had convinced them that it was? This may sound farfetched, but may have been happening for years. Based on a new report, many parents could be unnecessarily avoiding milk products and breastfeeding due to the baby formula industry’s inappropriate influence on how milk allergies are diagnosed.

In a paper published in The British Medical Journal on Wednesday, Chris van Tulleken, Ph.D., an honorary senior lecturer at University College London, wrote that children in the UK were diagnosed with cows’ milk protein allergy at a nearly 500-percent higher rate in 2016 compared to 2006, and van Telluken suggests that the baby formula industry is to blame for this skyrocketing rate of diagnoses, which often results in children being transitioned quickly to non-dairy formulas.

And while this increase translated to 700 percent higher spending on these products by the National Health Service, van Tulleken writes, there’s no evidence that more children are actually developing this allergy. Research from 2007 and 2016 suggest that there was not been a significant rise in the prevalence of cows’ milk protein allergy over that time period.

As van Tulleken reports, this overstatement doesn’t appear to be an accident. Out of six different milk allergy guidelines published between 2007 and 2017, the vast majority of contributing authors were researchers or doctors who received funding from the infant formula industry. In two cases, the guidelines were actually funded by the manufacturers themselves.

According to the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, published in 1981, companies that make milk substitutes are not supposed to directly educate mothers, create conflicts of interest, or advertise through health systems. But based on the information van Tulleken presents, it seems that infant formula manufacturers are finding ways to exert a strong influence on how doctors diagnose and treat patients.

“I obviously work within a high-tech medical system, but I see firsthand that we need to be really aware of the harm we can do and the immense influence industry has over our profession,” van Tulleken tells Inverse. “No one is more vulnerable than a breastfeeding infant and their parent to industry exploitation.”

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