Scientists discover method to flag drugs in baby food

Madrid: Spanish researchers have developed a fast and precise method to flag tiny amounts of drugs present in milk powder and meat-based baby food.

Antibiotics, such as tilmicosine, or antiparasitic drugs, such as levamisole, are given to livestock in order to avoid illness, but they can remain later in food.

"The concentrations detected have been generally very low. On one hand, this suggests they are not worrying amounts, on the other hand, it shows the need to control these products to guarantee food safety," Antonia Garrido, professor of analytical chemistry, University of Almeria, was quoted as saying in the journal Food Chemistry.

A `multi-residue` method, developed by Garrido`s team, allows several drugs to be detected at a time in baby food. The "precise, simple and fast" methodology has been validated by analysing 12 meat products (cow, pig or poultry) and nine milk powder samples, according to Spanish Scientific News Agency (SINC).

Sulphonamides, macrolides and other antibiotic traces have been found, as well as anthelmintics (anti-worm) and fungicides. In total, they found five veterinary drugs in milk powder and 10 in meat products, especially if they were chicken or other poultry.

Until now, the European Commission has regulated the levels of pesticides and other substances in cereal-based foods for children and babies, but not in animal-based foods.