Popular infant milk formula found in supermarkets does not reduce risk of eczema and allergies according to new research that also reveals conflicts of interest in many previous studies claiming otherwise – due to financial links with manufacturers.

The study, led by Imperial College London, reviewed data from dozens of different trials into hydrolysed baby formula – a type of formula treated with heat to break down the milk proteins.

Previous research has claimed that giving this formula to children at risk of conditions such as milk allergy and eczema, instead of standard formula, can reduce the chance of infants developing
the conditions.

A review of the evidence published by the Cochrane Library also suggests that hydrolysed formula reduced the risk of allergy, including milk allergy. However, the new research, published in the BMJ today/on Wednesday, showed there was no statistically significant reduction in risk of these conditions amongst babies using hydrolysed formula.

“Overall there was no consistent evidence that partially or extensively hydrolysed formulas reduce risk of allergic or autoimmune outcomes in infants at high pre-existing risk of these outcomes,” wrote the scientists.

Dr Robert Boyle, senior author of the study from the Department of Medicine at ICL, said: “Despite parents being advised these hydrolysed milk formulas may reduce the risk of conditions such as milk allergy and eczema, we found no evidence to support these claims.”