Controversy will always surround infant formulas. Only this week a prominent British MP, Lord Nazir Ahmed, was criticised by baby milk campaigners over plans to take a paid post advising food giant Nestle. For some time now, the Swiss group has been at the receiving end of campaigners who have criticised the marketing ploys of its infant formula in the developing world.
This week the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) sought to strengthen legislation surrounding infant formula. It released its recommendation to Food Standards Ministers of the finalisation of its review of infant formula products. The review of regulations for infant formula products has updated requirements, taking into account advances in scientific and technological knowledge, and has developed a harmonised standard to apply in both Australia and New Zealand.
ANZFA' s Chief Scientist, Dr Marion Healy, said: "While clearly breast milk provides the greatest health benefits to infants, it is also recognised that there are circumstances in which an infant is unable to be breast-fed. In those cases, infant formula is the next best feeding choice, and as such must be safe and nutritionally adequate.
"A very cautious approach has been adopted in developing the requirements for infant formula products. This recognises that infants are among the most vulnerable groups in our community and that formula products are likely to be the sole source of nutrition in the first few months of life for some infants."
The proposed new standard for infant formula products is designed to regulate products that meet the nutritional requirements of infants up to the age of 12 months. The standard covers formula for healthy babies as well as formulas for infants with special nutritional requirements.
It will also provide carers with additional information about infant formula products to help them make appropriate choices about the correct formula for feeding their infants and the safe use of products.
"The proposed standard offers an improvement in the composition of infant formula over the existing infant formula standards in Australia and New Zealand," Dr Healy said.
The new standard aims to recognise a wider range of infant formula products available on the market, including formulas for special dietary purposes. It will also have greater compositional control of nutrients including protein, fatty acids and vitamins and minerals to make infant formulas "even safer and healthier". In addition, it includes the requirement for novel foods and ingredients (that is foods with no history of safe use) to be assessed for safety before being permitted in infant formula.
More details can be obtained from ANZFA' s website.