Children's Food Project
2012-2013

Executive Summary

The main objectives of the 2012 – 2013 Children's Food Project (CFP) were to:

  • assess the compliance status for pesticide residues in infant formula;
  • assess the level of veterinary drug residues in infant formula;
  • obtain baseline data for arsenic species and aflatoxin M1 in infant formula; and
  • provide data on multiple hazards to Health Canada that can be used for the health risk assessment of infant formula.

In the 2012 – 2013 CFP, a total of 148 milk-based, soy-based and specialized infant formula samples were purchased nationally. Formulas tested included stage one to follow-up or toddler formulas. Samples were analyzed for pesticide residues, veterinary drug residues, aflatoxin M1 and metals. A total of 2 002 analytical tests were performed which corresponded to over 39 000 results.

Pesticide residues were not detected in any of the 148 samples tested. One hundred milk-based samples were tested for veterinary drug residues. Fifteen samples contained detectable levels, five of which were considered violations detected at levels above the method limit of quantitation. Veterinary drug maximum residue limits are established for primary animal products (e.g., milk) but are not applicable to processed products that may contain these edible products (e.g., milk-based formula). As such, the detection of a quantifiable level of any drug residue in milk-based infant formula at or above the method limit of quantitation is interpreted as a violation.  All violations were assessed by Health Canada and it was determined that the levels observed were unlikely to cause any adverse health consequences in infants. The overall compliance rate of the infant formula samples tested for pesticide and veterinary drug residues was 96.62 per cent. As none of the violations represented a concern to infant health, no recall was initiated.

There are few Canadian maximum levels established for metals in food. Metals of high toxicological risk, including arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury, were discussed in further detail. Arsenic can exist in both organic and inorganic forms in food with the inorganic forms generally being considered more hazardous.  Arsenic speciation analysis was completed on all samples of infant formula to determine the levels of various organic and inorganic species; inorganic arsenic (As III and As V) were the only species detected. The concentrations of metals in the food samples were assessed by Health Canada and were not expected to pose a concern to infant health.

All milk-based and some specialized infant formula samples were analyzed for aflatoxin M1. Aflatoxins are mycotoxins produced by the fungal species, Aspergillus, that can contaminant grains and nuts. When dairy cows are fed aflatoxin-contaminated feed, aflatoxin B1 is converted to aflatoxin M1, which is subsequently secreted in the milk. Detectable levels of aflatoxin M1 were found in 12% of samples. All results were below the Codex Alimentarius Commission maximum limit of 0.5 ppb aflatoxin M1 in milk.

Data obtained from studies like the CFP are useful in the assessment of the dietary exposure of Canadian children to pesticide residues, veterinary drug residues, metals and other contaminants. The 2012 – 2013 CFP represents an overview of the nature of pesticide and veterinary drug residues, aflatoxin M1 and metals in the infant formula available on the Canadian market.

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