Background: The fortification of milk and infant formula with vitamin D has had an important role in eliminating rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. A recent outbreak of vitamin D intoxication caused by drinking milk fortified with excess vitamin D has led to questions about the level of vitamin D in milk from other producers.
Methods: We used high-performance liquid chromatography to measure vitamin D in samples of 13 brands of milk with various fat contents and 5 brands of infant formula purchased at random from local supermarkets in five Eastern states.
Results: Only 12 (29 percent) of the 42 samples of the 13 brands of milk and none of the 10 samples of the 5 brands of infant formula contained 80 to 120 percent of the amount of vitamin D stated on the label. Twenty-six of the 42 milk samples (62 percent) contained less than 80 percent of the amount claimed on the label. No vitamin D was detected in 3 of the 14 samples of skim milk tested (lower limit of assay, 4.7 IU per quart [5.0 IU per liter]). One milk sample labeled as containing vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) contained vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Seven of the 10 samples of infant formula contained more than 200 percent of the amount stated on the label; the sample with the highest concentration contained 419 percent of the stated amount. None of the samples of infant formula contained less than the amount stated.
Conclusions: Milk and infant-formula preparations rarely contain the amount of vitamin D stated on the label and may be either underfortified or overfortified. Since both underfortification and overfortification are hazardous, better monitoring of the fortification process is needed.