Inaccurate baby bottle markings

Media release

28 February 2013
Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs

Some low-cost feeding bottles for babies sold in New Zealand have inaccurate markings, meaning some babies could be getting infant formula that is too concentrated.

Some bottles overestimate the fluid volume by up to 40 percent. This has possible health consequences for babies.

Consumer Affairs (part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) has surveyed volume indicator markings on 35 bottles. Fifteen had volume markings that were inaccurate by more than five percent – these bottles tended to be purchased from discount shops.

Formula that is too concentrated can cause babies to have problems like vomiting, diarrhoea and constipation. Untreated, this can cause serious dehydration.

Over time, formula that is too concentrated will provide excess energy (calories) and other nutrients. This could lead to overweight or obese babies and toddlers. It could also harm organs such as the kidneys, when they are still immature.

Most feeding bottles are imported and some of these meet a European regulatory standard (the EN14350 standard) that means the bottles are accurate. However, these bottles can be more expensive than bottles sold at discount shops.

The survey findings have prompted the Ministry of Health, in conjunction with Consumer Affairs (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment), the Pharmacy Guild and Plunket to develop guidance for caregivers.

Caregivers using infant formula are being advised by the ministries that they can get the accuracy of their feeding bottles checked.

They are now able to take their baby bottles to a pharmacy which has accurate measuring equipment. If necessary, the correct measures of volume can then be marked on their bottles.

The Ministry of Health recommends all babies are exclusively breastfed to around six months of age, and continue to be breastfed for up to one year of age or beyond once complementary foods are introduced. 

For those babies not fed breast milk, infant formula is the only appropriate milk alternative up to one year of age. 

If you are breastfeeding your baby this issue does not affect you.

If you are expressing breast milk to feed your baby and want to know the accurate volume being expressed or given either use an EN14350 bottle or check the accuracy of your bottle or measuring containers at your local pharmacy.

A series of Questions and answers on inaccurate markings on baby bottles is available.

For further information contact:

  • Ministry of Health
  • Consumer Affairs

More information for the public can be found at Formula feeding in the Your health section and by ringing PlunketLine 0800 933 922.