Right on the heels of the recent baby formula scare that shook China comes more bad news about baby formula — this time in the United Kingdom. A study by a team at Keele University and published in the journal BMC Pediatrics found that formula baby milk can contain 40 times more aluminum than breast milk, potentially putting babies' health at risk.

For the study, the researchers chose 15 branded infant formula products, including both powdered and ready-made liquid formulas based on cow's milk and soya. Products were sampled directly from their packaging to avoid any contamination. Ready-made liquid products were shaken between each sampling.

What did they find? Aluminum — and lots of it. Traces of the metal in milk from some of the UK's leading formula brands were found to be much higher than is legally allowed in water, according to health experts. The concentrations of aluminum in the milk formulas varied, but most exceed the standard of 200 μg/L (micrograms per liter) — the acceptable level of aluminum in water. One formula made by Cow & Gate specifically marketed for premature babies had the highest level of all, with more than 800 μg/L.

Manufacturers say they do not add aluminum to their products, but many formulas are often packaged in aluminum foil.  

There have been cases linking adverse health effects in infants to these brands of formula. But British parents are understandably worried as previous research has highlighted the potential toxicity of aluminum in infants with disorders including prematurity, neurological disorders, poor renal function and gastrointestinal disease.

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