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Thiamine deficient infant formula

The World Health Organization is informing its Member States of the health risk associated with Remedia brand soya based infant formula. Paediatricians, paediatric nurses and mid-wives should be advised to inform parents of infants on non-dairy formula of the potential risk for thiamine (vitamin B-1) deficiency in this product.

WHO has been informed by the Israeli government of a recently discovered outbreak of thiamine deficiency in Israel affecting 15 infants, including two deaths. The affected infants present a variety of cardiac and neurological symptoms. Thiamine is an essential vitamin, but severe thiamine deficiency, known as beriberi, is almost unknown in developed countries.

This outbreak has been associated with the consumption of a non-dairy soya based infant formula (Remedia Super Soya 1). The product is made for export in Herford, Germany by the Humana company. Analysis of the Remedia soya based infant formula product indicated that thiamine was "undetectable" in the three samples tested. Another Remedia soya based product for older infants (Super Soya Junior) was also shown to be deficient in thiamine.

The cases thus far identified are aged between two and ten months. Initial symptoms have included restlessness, vomiting, diarrhoea, apathy, convulsions and coma. This is a only preliminary assessment since data are still being collected from all hospitals. These findings will be updated as soon as the data collection and analyses have been completed. The Israeli Ministry of Health has advised that parents of infants who were fed this infant formula during the past two months should report to their physicians and that such infants should be given a two week supplementary oral dose of thiamine. It is important to emphasize that thiamine deficiency responds well to treatment by vitamin supplementation with products available in all countries.

For more information, please contact at WHO: Dr Gerald Moy, Scientist, Food Safety unit, tel. +41 22 791 3698, e-mail, or Gregory Hartl, Communication Adviser, Sustainable Development and Healthy Environment, tel. +41 22 791 4458, mobile +41 79 203 6715, e-mail