In response to research that high manganese intake could be neurotoxic to infants less than 6 months old, Lumen Foods, a manufacturer of soy-based infant formula not normally considered a member of the natural products industry, has printed a warning label on its package. Other soy milk makers questioned the study and said they won't follow suit.
Research from the University of California-Irvine explained how the soybean plant absorbs manganese from the soil, resulting in high manganese concentrations in soy beverages compared to breast milk. The concentrated presence could be toxic to infants, as areas of their brains grow significantly during the first six months of life.
Michael Potter, president of Clinton, Mich.-based Eden Foods, questioned the study, including who provided the funding, and said his company did not plan to print warnings on its products. "There are so many groups trying to take any chutzpah away from soy they can," Potter said. "We all know that the best thing in the world for infants that age is breast milk."
Imagine Foods, the Pal Alto, Calif.-based makers of Soy Dream, have long printed a statement on its packages that caution mothers not use the product as an infant formula for lactose intolerant children. "We want people to understand, aside from manganese levels, these are not infant formulas and shouldn't be used instead of mother's milk," said Ellen Weiser, corporate communications manager for the company.
Natural products shoppers don't buy formula for their infants, said Debra Stark, owner of Debra's Natural Gourmet in Concord, Mass. "Most formulas read like a chemical cocktail. I've always told people that in the natural products industry, we don't have a formula for infants."
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXII/number 8/p. 10