Young babies given attention may become excited and make more gestures, but they do not imitate their parents, researchers said. File photo: Cansa

Johannesburg - The North West health department is investigating why a quarter of 20 000 cases of baby milk formula had to be destroyed, it said on Friday.

The baby milk formula was meant for more than 7 000 HIV-positive mothers, spokesman Tebogo Lekgethwane said.

According to the Mail & Guardian newspaper, the department bought R7 million worth of baby milk formula in May 2011 and failed to distribute it for three years.

The department subsequently had to pay almost R2m to incinerate the expired milk in January.

Lekgethwane said the department had to cater for HIV-positive babies until March 31, 2012 when a new policy which advocated exclusive breast feeding had to be phased in.

“The department continued to distribute the baby formula to HIV-positive mothers who needed it and others who were having problems breast feeding,” he said.

The milk was distributed to mothers but the department was left with a surplus.

“The challenge came in when the milk was reaching its expiry date in October… to us it is normal to destroy anything that has reached its expiry date,” Lekgethwane said. - Sapa