Special edition: Infant Nutrition

Engaging NGOs critical to infant formula’s future

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Infant formula makers must start dialogue with NGOs like Baby Milk Action, says Dupont and DSM
Infant formula makers must start dialogue with NGOs like Baby Milk Action, says Dupont and DSM

Related tags Infant formula Milk

The infant formula industry must engage NGOs on the benefits of their products, according to scientists at DSM and Dupont.

The companies have also encouraged the industry to mainstream alterative protein sources such as soy.

Speaking at DairyReporter’s Vitafoods Live! debate in Geneva, Switzerland, earlier this year, Garry J Mendelson, European nutrition science & regulatory support manager, DuPont Nutrition & Health, said: “At a certain point we need to engage non-governmental organizations to be cooperative, not trying to be opposed to us.”

Start dialogue with NGOs

Breastfeeding advocacy groups such as Baby Milk Action (BMA) has spoken out against a number of infant formula producers for aggressively marketing their products allegedly in breach of international marketing standards. For example BMA has called for a boycott of Nestlé products and has spoken out against Danone.

Mendelson said that engagements with such bodies was key to the future of infant formula, particularly as people in emerging markets took messages from NGOs very seriously.

 “In some regions where the society is not very solid, particularly in emerging markets, consumers are more keen to listen to non-official opinion,” he​ said.

Collaboration key, says DSM

Manfred Eggersdorfer, senior vice-president, nutrition science and advocacy for DSM Nutritional Products, added that the infant formula manufacturers needed to stay on the same page.

“The science is progressing so much and science is offering on the one head a lot of insights and also complexity.  To manager the complexity all the stakeholders need to work together, stick together and work from the same table.”

“We still have a major issue with stunting in many countries – the only way is capacity building, the only way is communication, the only way is advocacy. This can be done governments, this can be done by companies and organizations and NGO. There have to link together and bring this forward. Only this is the solution.”

Mainstreaming alternative proteins

According to Mendelson, the industry should also look to mainstream alternative to milk proteins due to future milk capacity constraints as consumption in emerging markets rises.

“Sooner or later we will see the shortage of protein sources - not only in our general nutritional formulas but for infants as well. We need to look at other protein sources…not only looking at alternatives to cow milk products as alternatives. We need to look at them as sources of protein that should be incorporated in the general stream.”

“Cow’s milk is not the only source of protein which can provide the protein for normal growth and development of children.”

He said that soy protein stood out as it was environmentally friendly, more sustainable and could produce the same results as milk protein. However, he said it was currently used mainly for children with lactose intolerance and for religious reasons.

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