The British Specialist Nutrition Association (BSNA) has slammed a Which? consumer report that branded toddler milk products “unnecessary” and a waste of money.
BSNA, which counts Abbott Nutrition, Danone, Nestlé, Mead Johnson and Nutricia amongst its members, has rubbished the claims and stressed that the products, which are developed for children between one and two years of age, are a “convenient way to provide essential nutrients to toddlers.”
It issued the comments in response to a survey by the British consumer watchdog, that found parents could save more than £500 per year by feeding their children cow’s milk as an alternative to toddler milk.
Using the Nestlé-owned SMA toddler milk brand as an example, Which? found that British parents could make an annual saving of £531 by switching from ready-to-serve toddler milk to cow’s milk, which would cost just £62 per year.
“At a time when so many household budgets are severely squeezed, parents could be saving hundreds of pounds on toddler milks that the Government says are unnecessary,” said Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd.
“Ministers should make their advice much clearer and introduce guidance on the ingredients of toddler milks, including the level of sugar and calcium,” he added.
Nutritional benefits questioned
Which? has also questioned the nutritional advantages of toddler milk over plain cow’s milk.
It said that while toddler milk contains more iron and vitamin D than cow’s milk, these nutrients can be obtained from a child’s diet or a multivitamin that contains vitamin A, C and D.
It also claimed that full-fat cow’s milk contains less sugar than Hipp Organic Combiotic growing-up milk powder, and higher levels of calcium than Danone-manufactured Aptamil 1-year+ and Cow & Gate 1-2 years.
Commenting on the claims, Roger Clarke, director general of the British Specialist Nutrition Association (BSNA), said that British toddler milk products “adhere to strict European regulations and do not contain added sugars.”
“Toddler milks are specially made for young children combining the overall benefits of milk with the addition of essential nutrients including vitamin D and iron not normally found in whole cow’s milk.”
“Toddler milks also contain around half the amount of protein than cow’s milk, 60% less sodium and less saturated fats than cows’ milk. There is emerging evidence to support a reduction of protein in young children’s diets,” he added.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that mothers should breastfeed their children up to and beyond the age of two.
In a report published last month, the WHO said that “as well as being unnecessary, follow-up formula is unsuitable when used as a breast-milk replacement from six months of age onwards.”
Current product formulations “lead to higher protein intake and lower intake of essential fatty acids, iron, zinc and B vitamins than those recommended by WHO for adequate growth and development of infants and young children,” the WHO report added.
Speaking with DairyReporter.com earlier today, Baby Milk Action policy director and International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) co-chair, Patti Rundall criticized the “marketing strategies pushing these ridiculous products all over the world.”
“They are a total rip-off in my view and aside from that will almost certainly harm child health – even survival in many countries – and contribute to the obesity epidemic. The sooner they come off the market the better,” said Rundall.
“I see them as a cynical attempt to avoid marketing restriction that the World Health Assembly and many governments have in place to protect child health,” she added.