As detailed in EC working document, published by breastfeeding advocacy group Baby Milk Action (BMA) last week, Brussels is currently exploring "non-legislative measures at EU level" relating to growing-up formula.
Growing-up formula, also commonly known as toddler formula and young-child formula, is marketed primarily for children aged one to three years.
Unlike infant formula (0-6 months) and follow-on formula (6-12 months), the composition and marketing on growing-up milk is not strictly controlled in the European Union (EU).
Under the "new policy option" - the product of months of consultation with EU Member States, stakeholders, and NGOs - the EC would enter into "dialogue with food business operators to encourage development of self-regulatory commitments for young-child formulae placed on the market in the EU."
"These commitments could cover composition aspects as well as the modalities for appropriately marketing the products," said the Working Document.
EU Member States would also be encouraged to "refrain from adopting legislation at a national level on the matter provided that the manufacturers respect their self-regulatory commitments."
This "new policy option" is the fourth produced by the EC since it began work on a report in mid-2014.
The EC is required, under Article 12 of EU Regulation No 609/2013, to produce a report by July 2015 on the "the necessity, if any, of special provisions for milk-based drinks and similar products intended for young children regarding compositional and labelling requirements."
Work began July 2014, when Member States, industry stakeholders, and NGOs were asked to complete a questionnaire, which led to the creation of an October 2014 Working Document detailing three "possible future options for action on young-child formulae."
Under option one "no specific legislation for young-children formulae" would be developed. Option two described the "adoption of specific rules for young-child formulae", and option three an "extension of existing requirements to cover young-child formulae."
Following further discussion, a fourth option was "identified that would deserve further consideration."
"No credible strategy"
In a blog post, Patti Rundall, policy director, BMA, said the EC has "proposed no credible strategy for curbing the growth in this market - except dialogue with the industry would voluntary self-regulatory options."
"The EU Commission claims that the new proposals are a step forward but has taken little account of the market developments in the last 10 years," she said.
"Companies are now stretching the infant formula brand names to a new range of flavoured sweetened formulas for babies over 12 months using the same deceptive tactics, claiming improvements in eyesight and development etc."
Meanwhile, EU dairy processor representative, the European Dairy Association (EDA), "appealed for the need of specific rules on young-child formula."
In a joint statement issued in January, the EDA and Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE), which represents EU manufacturers of specialist foods for infants and young children, called for the growing-up formula to be "appropriately placed within the framework of the Regulation on Foods for Specific Groups."