Mead Johnson Nutrition: Request for Report on Nanomaterials

<- Back to Resolution Tracker

WHEREAS: Mead Johnson’s Enfamil™ infant formula has been reported to contain engineered hydroxyapatite (HA) nanoparticles in both needle-like and non-needle-like forms, according to independent laboratory testing commissioned by the non-profit Friends of the Earth.  

The E.U. Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) has determined that nano-HA may be toxic to humans and that the needle-form of nano-HA should not be used even in cosmetic products, because there exists insufficient scientific literature to draw a conclusion on the safety of nano-HA (SCCS/1566/15). Additionally, manufacturer warnings suggest nano-HA may pose an inhalation hazard -- making dry formula potentially dangerous for both babies and parents. 

Companies that use, intend to use, or simply allow the use of engineered nanoparticles face significant financial, legal, and reputational risk. This is even more likely when the safety of a particular type of nanoparticle has been raised by regulatory bodies and is being used in infant formula. Infants are especially vulnerable.  

Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating matter at the molecular scale to build structures, tools, or products. While nanotechnology allows the creation of new particles and devices, the scientific community has raised serious questions about the safety of nanoparticles to health, especially inorganic and engineered particles.  

Research suggests that nanoparticles’ small size makes them more likely to enter cells, tissues, and organs where they may interfere with normal cellular function and cause inflammation, damage, and cell death (Trouiller 2009; Lai 2008; Gerloff 2009; Tassinari 2013; Gui 2013; Lucarelli 2004).  

There is no consensus on what size is safe, or what long-term effects these materials may have. The FDA has not enacted regulations to protect consumer health related to the use of nanomaterials in food, but has issued guidance stating: 

  • Nanoparticles can have chemical, physical, and biological properties that differ from those of their larger counterparts; and 

  • “We are not aware of any food ingredient. . . intentionally engineered on the nanometer scale for which there are generally available safety data sufficient to serve as the foundation for a determination that [its] use . . . is GRAS [Generally Recognized As Safe].”  

Food companies such as Starbucks, Panera Bread, Dunkin Donuts, and Krispy Kreme are beginning to replace and/or avoid engineered nanomaterials (e.g., titanium dioxide) in their food products. We seek action from our company to meet the standards of its peers, especially in the production of infant formula. 

RESOLVED: Shareholders request the Board publish, at reasonable cost and excluding proprietary information, a report on the potential health hazards of nanomaterials, particularly of nano-HA; identifying the types of the company’s products or packaging that currently contain nanoparticles; and stating any actions management is taking to reduce or eliminate potential health and environmental risks of nanoparticles, such as eliminating the use of nanoparticles until or unless they are proven safe through long-term testing. 

Resolution Details

Mead Johnson Nutrition

Lead Filer: 
As You Sow

Year: 2017

Filing Date: 
January 2017

Initiative(s): Nanomaterials in Food

Status: Annual Meeting Cancelled

Download PDF