The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been asked by the EU to produce a report on the nutritional value of follow-on formulas and children’s or toddler’s milks which may inform labeling updates across the block.
In a letter to EFSA, the European Commission said it was time guidance and possibly regulation was updated, since the last serious review was conducted by EFSA’s predecessor the Scientific Committee on Food in 2003.
“In the last ten years, scientific and technological developments on the essential composition of these products have progressed and there are increasing calls for a review of the legislation to reflect such developments,” wrote the EC’s Ladislav Miko.
Infant formula (0-6 months); follow-on formula (6-12 months) are currently regulated under the 2006 EU Directive on infant formulae and follow-on formulae. Toddler’s milks (1-3 years), according to the EC, "are promoted as being particularly suitable for young children and, as such, under the current rules, may be considered as foodstuffs for paticular nutritional uses."
"However, no composition requirements for these products are set in EU legislation."
One call for review came in late 2011 when the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) concluded toddler’s milks were no better nutritionally than regular cow’s milk for over-1s.
It said the protein manipulation and addition of fatty acids, vitamins and minerals in infant drinks did not deliver nutritional bonuses to infants compared to normal dairy milk.
Global regulation of these kinds of products is set for discussion by the UN food regulation guidance body, Codex Alimentarius, although the EFSA review may not be completed by then.
The EC said EFSA's opinion should determine the, "necessity of growing-up milks' to satisfy the nutritional requirements of young children and, if considered appropriate, advise the Commission with respect to the appropriate age rane and the essential composition of 'growing-up milks'."
Roger Clarke, director general of the British Specialist Nutrition Association (BSNA) broadly welcomed the review.
“We would view this approach by the Commission as making sense as it mixes Codex and European perspectives,” he said.
“I think the industry in Europe as a whole would support the EU model being used at international level, and would welcome that food safety as an important dimension has been taken on board with regard to [children’s milks] as it’s such an important concern for parents and carers of infants and young children.”