By December 8, 2012 13 Comments Read More →

Why Is Pesticide Used As An Ingredient In Infant Formula?

Sayer Ji, GreenMedInfo
Waking Times

Why is cupric sulfate — a known herbicide, fungicide and pesticide — being used in infant formula? And why is it displayed proudly on product labels as a presumably nutritious ingredient?

Used to kill fungus, aquatic plants and roots of plants, parasitic infections in aquarium fish and snails, as well as algae and bacteria such as Escherichia coli, cupric sulfate hardly sounds fit for human consumption, much less for infants.

Indeed, infants are all too often looked at as “miniature adults” from the perspective of toxicological risk assessments, rather than what they are: disproportionately (if not exponentially) more susceptible to the adverse effects of environmental exposures. Instead of reducing or altogether eliminating avoidable infant chemical exposures (the precautionary principle), the chemical industry-friendly focus is always on determining “an acceptable level of harm” – as if there were such at thing!

It boggles the imagination how cupric sulfate ended up in infant formula, as well as scores of other consumer health products, such as Centrum and One-A-Day vitamins?

After all, it is classified, according to the Dangerous Substance Directive (one of the main European Union laws concerning chemical safety), as “Harmful (Xn), Irritant (Xi) and Dangerous for the environment (N).”

Moreover, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that the warning signal “DANGER” appear on the labels of all copper sulfate end-products containing 99% active ingredient in crystalline form.

The Material Safety Data Sheet for Cupric Sulfate clearly states, in ‘Section 3: Hazards Identification,” that it has the following adverse health effects:

“Potential Acute Health Effects: Hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation.

Potential Chronic Health Effects: CARCINOGENIC EFFECTS: Not available. MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells. TERATROGENIC EFFECTS: Not available. DEVELOPMENT TOXICITY: Not available. The substance may be toxic to kidneys, liver. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.”

In ‘Section 7: Handling and Storage” the following precautions must be taken:

“Do not ingest. Do not breathe dust. Wear suitable protective clothing. In case of insufficient ventilation, wear suitable respiratory equipment. If ingested, seek medical advice immediately and show t he container or the label. Avoid contact with skin and eyes. Keep away from incompatibles such as metals, alkalis.”

Cleary we have a problem here.  Cupric sulfate is used in most mass market infant formulas. Even Similac’s “sensitive” formula contains the ingredient:

Similac Sensitive - Infant Formula with Iron

Similac Sensitive Ingredients

Could this be one reason why infant formula has been linked to over 50 adverse health effects, both short and long term, in infants given it in place of breast milk?  The common explanation/claim is that infant formula isn’t intrinsically harmful, rather, breast milk and breastfeeding is just healthier.  I believe this perspective in untenable, given the problems with cupric sulfate, and dozens of other questionable ingredients being used in these products, such as petroleum-derived and chirally inverted dl-alpha tocopherol (synthetic vitamin E), zinc sulfate, sodium selenate, manganese sulfate, etc.

For additional research on the inherent problems associated with the use of chemicals in infant formula, take a look at our evaluation of another Similac product.

Or, take a look at the “Organic” infant formula by Earth’s Best:, which is surprisingly not that much better.

About the Author

Sayer Ji is the founder and chair of His writings have been published in the Wellbeing Journal, the Journal of Gluten Sensitivity, and have been featured on numerous websites, including,,, His critically acclaimed essay series The Dark Side of Wheat opens up a new perspective on the universal, human-species specific toxicity of wheat, and is now available for PDF download.

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  • peter

    The body needs small amounts of metals such as iron, copper and zink for normal growth and health. Copper is used by at least 18 enzymes in the body. Copper is needed to help your body use iron. It is also important for nerve function, bone growth, and to help the body use sugar and oxygen. It is normally found in various foods such as grain, chicken, legumes, beans and nuts. Babies normally get it from the breast milk. To little copper will cause cooper deficiency which is associated with various symptoms including anemia, nerve dysfunction and low blood cell count. If you decided to make and sell a baby formula it would be incredibly irresponsible, and probably a crime not to include important minerals. The amounts needed for the body is at milligram levels per day. You are reading the safety sheet from a product containing pure copper sulfate! Eating pure metal is obviously toxic both for humans, plants and insects. Read the MSDS for pure iron salt (ferrous sulfate in the formula), manganese sulfate, potassium iodide etc and you will find similar language. Nobody is suggesting feeding a baby pure copper or copper salt with a spoon, but without the tiny amounts from breast milk or formula the baby would not stand a chance to grow up to become a healthy child.

  • Bri

    We got caught up in this new age way to feed our babies 25years ago. They’re doing ok but looking back I’d much rather my wife breast fed them.

  • Ranger Blade

    Problem is that we do not know just how MUCH per serving of this Cupric Sulfate is in the formula.
    Furthermore it seems many of these so-called “nutrients” are either extracted and concentrated or are chemically synthesized then re-added to things like formulas.

    It seems that in the past people used canned milk, water and baby vitamins for formula. I don’t know….I think it is a good idea to actually read the ingredients and research them to find out exactly what they are instead of assuming that it is all safe or that all the ingredients are what they claim to be.

  • Natasha

    Solution: Ask your grandmother and great grandmother what they did when infant formula didn’t exist. Surely it must of been okay because you are here now and seem healthy. My question is why are corn syrup solids (another name for sugar) and sugar the top two ingredients? HUH?! How is sugar healthy for your infant? Is that why so many kids are coming down with diabetes or overweight?

  • crosspatch

    I would suggest reading this:

    Babies on formula or cows milk often do not get enough copper. The cupric sulfate is a dietary copper supplement that is required for proper growth of infants.

  • crosspatch

    Typical arm waiving over something that in 100% pure form is toxic but has desired qualities in very tiny amounts. It also contains vitamin A. Vitamin A is extremely toxic in 100% pure form and too much will cause blindness.

  • cornishstu

    Copper sulfate is essential to the human body to help promote normal growth and good health, it helps with bone development, nerve function and sugar metabolism. It is found in quite a few vitamin supplements. So assuming there is not vast amounts it should not be a problem, just as over dosing on water intake can be detrimental to ones health

    • Anonymous

      I like your reply smart guy. Internet high five.

  • gintaras

    Pretty ignorant article. Did you know that vitamins found in plants are really insecticides and fungicides as far as the plant is concerned. And that metallic selenium is toxic while selenium found in pasta (which is very high in this mineral) is actually healthy. The only thing questionable here is how much study and research you have done on this topic – seems like not much.

  • Adam Eve

    Could this be one reason why infant formula has been linked to over 50 adverse health effects, both short and long term, in infants given it in place of breast milk? NO but it could be you shit stiring with NO mention of actual evidence….. We all KNOW that some poisons (in miniscule quantites) have benefical health effects…. so EVIDENCE please..

  • Thankyou for the mind-boggling post. Do you know of an infant formula that is safe? or without said chemical?

    I would love to share this information but there will be thousands of mum’s out there – my daughter-in-law included, who are going to completely freak out when they read this and will want to know if there is a safe product to give their babies

    • Anonymous

      You can make your own formula, however it time consuming & there are a lot of not so common ingredients.

  • Mel

    Why you ask?
    Because they just love us to death

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