12 January - 20 June 2016

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on young-child formulae

Products, derived from protein of animal or vegetable origin such as cows’ milk or soy, are often marketed as "growing up milks" or "toddlers’ milks" or with similar terminology.

Products, derived from protein of animal or vegetable origin such as cows’ milk or soy, are often marketed as "growing up milks" or "toddlers’ milks" or with similar terminology.

In July 2016 the PARNUTS directive will be replaced with the Foods for Specific Groups. Under this new legislation young-child formulae will be classified as normal food instead of dietetic food. The European Parliament asked the Commission to produce a report to assess whether there is a need for special provisions for young-child formulae.  There is currently no EU legislation set for specific composition requirement for these products.

The report considers the nutritional requirements, the role of these products in the diets of young children, nutritional benefit, marketing, perception and current legislation. 

The Commission used a number of resources including EFSA opinions, a study by AINIA on availability and nutritional composition of different milk-based drinks and similar products for children in EU Member states as well as the results of a questionnaire.

The report notes compositional and energy content of young-child formulae across the EU is varied however the amount of nutrients are generally in the ranges reported by Specialised Nutrition Europe.  The majority of young-child formulae are based on cow’s milk as a protein, although the protein content in young-child formulae is often lower whilst the carbohydrate content is reported to be higher and the fat content lower than cow’s milk.  Formulae is often fortified with micronutrients, such as iron and vitamin D and other substances for example taurine, which in many cases are not present in cow’s milk. 

The report discusses the size of the market, structure of the market and the marketing of young-child formulae.  Claims are based on the product’s specific formulation, and often describe the nutritional properties.  Health claims are often based on the role of the different ingredients in helping to achieve the nutritional requirements of young children. 

Section four of the report discusses consumer perception and behaviour, noting consumption levels per country, and parents’ and other caregivers perceptions.  It notes in summary that breastfeeding decreases after the age of one year and in young children’s diets, formula products are competing with cow’s milk. Whilst different sources influence parent’s decisions, the most common argument was the nutritional suitability for the needs of young children and the superiority to cow’s milk.  In some EU states infant formulae was recommended, in others, cow’s milk. 

The rest of the report investigates legislation that is applicable to young-child formulae and opinions from EFSA and member states and interested parties. EFSA delivered their scientific opinions to the Commission stating that “formulae consumed during the first year of life can continue to be used by young children.  Therefore the panel does not consider it necessary to propose specific compositional criteria for formulae consumed after one year of age”.

However the majority of Member States' experts expressed support for additional action at EU level referring to the increased level of consumer protection, the increased legal certainty, and the elimination of the risk of Member States adopting legislation at national level to regulate young-child formulae.  Other Member States' experts expressed the different view that young-child formulae are not necessary for young children, as highlighted by EFSA, and raised the concern that additional action would enhance their status, make their consumption increase and, ultimately, possibly mislead consumers. 

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