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Study finds formula & follow on contain aluminium - which brands are worst?

Firstly let me clarify this is NOT an anti-formula post!  It's to raise awareness of this contamination issue, because if I were using it I would be campaigning like crazy to stop manufacturers completely ignoring this significant health risk and take action!  I also hope the data allows parents to select brands shown to have a lower concentration of contamination.

A study published in BMC Paediatrics, August 2010 - found formula can contain upto 40 times the level of aluminium found in breastmilk; which is 16 times that allowed legally in water.

A team from Keele Uni in Staffordshire tested 15 ready-made & powdered formula milks for aluminium.
"In both types of milk, levels were still unacceptably high.  Recent research demonstrating the vulnerability of infants to early exposure to aluminium serves to highlight an urgent need to reduce the aluminium content of infant formulas to as low a level as is practically possible.  Previous research strongly suggests aluminium could cause some toxicity in premature babies with illnesses such kidney disease; In a healthy baby you wouldn't see any symptoms or problems but there is concern that it can accumulate & cause issues in later years.  It has been linked to neurological diseases and bone defects in later life and there are even links with dementia. Everyone has aluminium in their bodies but infants are especially prone to absorbing it and are not so good at getting rid of it"
Dr. Chris Exley

What's perhaps most worrying about this study is that the highest levels of all were found in a milk designed for the most vulnerable; Cow & Gate Nutriprem, a specialised breastmilk substitute for premature babies, topped the list of liquid formulas by a significant amount.  The worst offenders for liquid formula after Nutriprem were Cow & Gate First Infant Milk, Cow & Gate Follow-On Milk & Growing Up Milk and Aptamil Follow-On Milk.  In general though the aluminium content of formulas prepared from powdered milks were significantly higher than ready-made milks (with the exception of Nutriprem) with the worst powders being Sma Wysoy Soya, Aptamil Follow-On Milk, Hipp Organic Follow-On Milk (dya think that will be organic aluminium ? ;)) and Cow & Gate Follow-On Milk.  So all in all Cow & Gate didn't fare too well!

As all manufacturers insist that aluminium is not knowingly added to their products, the suggestion is that these products are 'contaminated' with aluminium. The likelihood is that many of the individual constituents of the formulas are contaminated, which may include equipment used in both processing and storing of bulk products. In addition many of the formulas were packaged for sale using aluminium-based materials!

What makes me most cross about the study is it also states:

There has been a long and significant history documenting the contamination of infant formulas by aluminium and consequent health effects in children. Manufacturers of infant formulas have been made fully aware of the potentially compounded issue of both the contamination by aluminium and the heightened vulnerability, from the point of view of a newborn's developing physiology, of infants fed such formulas. There have been similar warnings over several decades in relation to aluminium toxicity and parenteral nutrition of preterm and term infants. To these ends the expectation would be that the aluminium content of current infant formulas would at the very least be historically low and at best would be as low as might be achieved for a processed product
The aluminium content of infant formulas measured herein are not significantly different to historical values and this lack of improvement in lowering their content suggests either that the manufacturers are not monitoring the aluminium content of their products or that the manufacturers are not concerned at these levels of contamination.
It is clear that aluminium in infant formulas is a significant component of early life exposure to this ubiquitous contaminant and as such every effort should be made by manufacturers to reduce the aluminium content of these products to an achievable practical minimum while at the same time manufacturers should be compelled to indicate the level of contamination by aluminium on the packaged product.  Aluminium is non-essential and is linked to human disease.
This link is another compelling reason why mothers should not use fluoridated water to make up formula powder (a topic I plan to blog about soon!).  There is evidence Fluoride in Drinking Water Increases Toxicity of Aluminum - with potentially fatal consequences.   As liquid formula contained generally lower levels, where possible this may be the safer option.
I hope those pro-formula or using it, DO something to force manufacturers to address this issue.  Write, email, petition, campaign!  It's not just for the lactivists ;)

The aluminium content of milk powders (P) used in formulas.
Commercial Name of Product
N = 5
[Al] μg/g
Mean (SD)
[Al] μg/g
[Al] μg/L*

Sma Wysoy Soya Infant Formula4.3 (1.0)3.7-6.0629.0

Sma First Infant Milk2.4 (1.4)1.3-4.6333.3

Hipp Organic Follow-On Milk3.6 (1.6)2.1-6.3500.0

Hipp Organic Good Night Milk2.9 (1.5)1.7-5.5406.0

Cow & Gate First Infant Milk2.8 (0.6)1.8-3.5424.0

Hipp Organic First Infant Milk2.7 (1.3)0.2-4.2394.4

Aptamil Follow-On Milk3.1 (0.5)2.3-3.8592.4

Cow & Gate Follow-On Milk2.5 (3.4)1.7-10.8477.8

*Based upon manufacturer's instructions for preparing the milk.
Burrell and Exley BMC Pediatrics 2010 10:63   doi:10.1186/1471-2431-10-63

The aluminium content of ready-made (RM) milk infant formulas.
Commercial Name of Product
N = 5
[Al] μg/L
Mean (SD)
[Al] μg/L

Sma First Infant Milk267.9 (40.9)210.1-322.5

Sma Follow-On Milk245.8 (59.0)174.5-309.8

Cow & Gate First Infant Milk338.8 (34.8)293.0-371.0

Hipp Organic Growing-Up Milk175.5 (34.7)131.4-236.8

Aptamil Follow-On Milk296.1 (13.9)279.3-314.2

Cow & Gate Follow-On Milk303.7 (10.8)285.3-316.8

Cow & Gate Growing-Up Milk430.0 (214.8)285.3-856.5

Cow & Gate Nutriprem 1700.4 (93.6)602.5-863.0

Burrell and Exley BMC Pediatrics 2010 10:63   doi:10.1186/1471-2431-10-63


  1. Hi,
    This article had me mortified! I have recently started weaning my son onto Hipp organic formula during the day. Obviously after reading above I reverted back to solely breast milk, and expressing enough for him to take to daycare.
    In the meantime, I contacted Hipp to get further stats as well as doing further research. Looks like it is deemed 'safe' by the WHO and other European authorities for 1mg of aluminium per 1kg of body weight to be ingested per week. When you work that out, even the highest of the above aluminium contents is still within these limits (bearing in mind 500 micro grams=0,5mg). If your baby is say 12kg as mine is, He can have 12mg of aluminium per week. If he were on formula 100%, he could have about 6 times his recommended intake of formula and still be within safe limits according to the WHO.
    Don't get me wrong, I still think breast milk is by far superior, which is why at almost 1 years old my son continues to be breastfeed. However with returning to work full time to a demanding job, it will not be easy expressing enough milk to
    keep this up 100%, especially when travelling for more than a week at a time. This is why I have turned to formula to fill in the gaps. I will no doubt be switching to organic cows milk fairly soon. I assume since aluminium is a natural element occurring in the earths core, cows milk will also have a fair amount of aluminium varying no doubt between regions, seasons etc etc. Something more to research!
    After having a panic about this, I know feel more at ease knowing a few more
    facts that put this into perspective.
    To reiterate, I agree manufacturers should continually strive for the lowest aluminium levels. As mothers we should try to breast feed if possible for as long as possible. When that is no longer feasible, we should be informed of what we are giving our children.

  2. Hi Anon
    Some interesting points, I'm sure Hipp loved the enquiry ;)
    I read the WHO link, but this doesn't specifically seem to mention infants? Are we assuming the impact of that amount per weight is the same for an infant as an adult?

    Given the large difference between formulas in terms of aluminium, I thought posting may allow parents to make an informed choice to avoid brands that are higher. This is interesting about organic formulas

    As baby isn't on formula 100%, then one would surely need to calculate the content of what is eaten? We know formula has upto 40 times the amount found in bm, but what other foods pose increased risk?

    Does an infant at nearly one need artificial milk to fill the gap? What about yoghurts, cheese, milky puddings etc? Follow on formula is just a follow on con anyway....



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