(a) and (b) The government has investigated the reports on medical problems allegedly caused by soy based infant formula and it has reviewed the scientific literature related to this issue. With the exception of infants with rare medical conditions, such as soy allergy and congenital hypothyroidism, it was concluded that these foods do not pose a risk to those infants that consume them. The government is continuing to monitor the scientific literature for evidence of any health related concerns associated with soy based formula and its constituents.
Recently published preliminary results from a large retrospective study that has followed up adults who were fed soy based formula as infants indicates no significant differences between individuals fed soy formula compared to those fed cow milk based formula in the following variables: weight and height, measurements of precocity and a large number of reproductive and non-reproductive outcomes.
(c) We are not aware of a requirement from the World Health Organization for a health warning on the labels of baby foods.
With regard to soy based infant formulas, Health Canada does not recommend their use for the routine feeding of babies. The statement of the joint working group of the Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and Health Canada, Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants, published in 1998, emphasizes that breastfeeding is the optimal method of feeding infants and encourages exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first four months of life. Cow's milk based infant formulas are recommended as the standard product for healthy term infants who are not breastfed.
Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants states that soy based formulas should be used only for those infants who cannot take dairy based products for health, cultural or religious reasons, such as a vegan lifestyle, or galactosemia, a metabolic disorder where infants are unable to metabolize galectose, a sugar in milk. This reiterates the recommendation that was made in “Feeding Babies” published by Health and Welfare Canada in 1986.
Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants also states that soy protein based formulas are inappropriate for infants who are not breastfed and who are at high risk of atopic disease or for those infants with a documented allergy to cow's milk protein. The formulas that should be used in these instances are formulas based on hydrolyzed milk protein; for infants with documented milk allergies, the protein should be extensively hydrolyzed.