Hospitals dumping €1m of milk formula: study

Milk formula for babies worth as much as €1m is being dumped down the drain in hospitals each year, according to a study.

The research estimated that between 36 and 48 tonnes of Ready To Use Breast-Milk Substitutes is discarded per year and that baby formula tends not to fall under systems already in place in hospitals that aim to reduce food waste.

The study was conducted be researchers from the University of Limerick and claimed: “Strategic problem orientation revealed that 61% of the volume of ready to use breast-milk substitutes purchased by maternity services remains unconsumed and ends up as waste.”

Ireland has a relatively low rate of breastfeeding and breast-milk substitutes are purchased not only for maternity units but also for paediatric hospitals and neonatal and paediatric units in general hospitals, and for other reasons.

The cost to the HSE has been reported to be €1 per bottle and teat, but the average cost to consumers through retailers has been calculated by the research team to be, on average, €1.78 for the same items.

Researchers suggested that the total number of bottles required nationally ranged between 787,057 and 946,220 a year, with the Cost of Procurement to HSE estimated at between €787,057 and €946,220 at low cost and between €1,397,901 and €1,680,591 if retail prices were paid.

Given the estimate that 61% on average is unconsumed, there could be as much as €1m worth of milk is being discarded.

One of the co-authors of the research said the figures were based on the number of infants born over a set period of time, their stomach capacity and likely feeding rate across a typical stay of 3.2 days and then equated that with the amount of milk they would need.

Dr Yvonne Ryan, postdoctoral researcher, Centre for Environmental Research in the Department of Chemical Sciences at the University of Limerick, said since then actual data has been provided by some hospitals which indicates that the researchers’ 61% figure might be an underestimate. Dr Ryan said: “People think it’s ok to throw it down the drain. 

In reality, it should be going into the food waste bin.”


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