Lumen Foods (www.soybean.com), a manufacturer of soy-based foods and beverages, has posted warning labels on its soymilk products in response to growing research that the high manganese levels found in soy beverages, and in particular, infant formula, may be neurotoxic to infants under the age of six months. The label reads: “WARNING: Soymilk may be detrimental to infants under 6 months of age. It contains manganese at levels important to human nutrition but over 50 times the level found in mother’s breast milk. For more information, see www.soybean.com/h120.htm.”

“Our concern is two-fold,” notes company president, George Ackerson. “First, that there is mounting evidence of a correlation between manganese in soymilk (including soy-based infant formula) and neurotoxicity in small infants, and secondly, that if we know that credible research exists and we don’t act responsibly, we could be held liable.”


Lumen Foods sells a small line of soy beverages branded “Heaven on Earth”, which could conceivably be used as infant formula. Although the products are competitively priced against real milk, the company is not a major player in the retail soy beverage market, and, in fact, most of its soy beverages sales are made through mail order and institutional accounts. The company has never sold a distinct line of baby formula.


The company’s founder, Greg Caton, made the recommendation after investigating claims by the Violence Research Foundation (VRF) of San Clemente, California, that correlates high manganese in soymilk with brain damage in newborn mammals. In one study, a similar phenomenon was found in human infants; and in another, by Dr. Louis Gottschalk, elevated manganese levels were found in the scalp hair of adolescents incarcerated for violent crimes. Separate interviews by Caton revealed the possibility that soymilk use in small infants could correlate to the dramatic increases in ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and violent adolescent incidents over the last 40 years.


What is already established is that newborn infants do not have the ability to metabolize levels of manganese comparable to human adult capability. This is evidenced by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s own recommendations on minimum daily manganese requirements. Whereas infants are shown to only require .005 mg. per day; the average adult can readily metabolize over 1.2 mg. per day, or in excess of 200 times that amount. Moreover, once stored in neural tissue, excess manganese (and the effects it exerts) will remain there for many years.


“I’ve been following anti-nutritional claims again soy products for almost 20 years,” notes Caton. “Over 99 percent of them are readily dismissible. My concern, having spent a month to follow up on the VRF claim and the research behind it, is that this may be in the one percent category. We aren’t telling people not to drink soymilk. We’re just warning parents to consider that their newborn infants aren’t capable of metabolizing significant levels of one of its mineral nutrients, and there could be negative consequences to this.”