The European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee has reportedly failed to block approval for an infant formula manufacturer’s claim that adding the fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to baby food “contributes to the normal visual development of infants up to 12 months of age.” Although the application to include the health claim had already received favorable opinions from the European Food Safety Authority and European Commission, the committee MEPs last month voted against authorization, arguing “that there is no scientific consensus on the effect that DHA-fortified formula have on infants, that more research is needed on the possible effects, both beneficial and harmful, of DHA supplements, and that the health claim could be misleading.” But this resolution did not gain enough support in the April 4-7, 2011, plenary session of Parliament, which ultimately approved the DHA health claim by a margin of eight votes.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph has reported public “anger” at the outcome, citing concerns raised by the World Health Organization (WHO), Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, and other health groups about synthetic DHA, as opposed to the version that naturally occurs in breast milk. According to the April 6 news article, WHO has found no solid evidence “to be able to say that adding DHA to infant formula will have important clinical benefits.” The organization has also warned that “general promotion of these products may induce mothers to use infant formula in the first six months of life and/or stop continued breast feeding after this period.”