FDA CONSUMER A REPRINT FROM FDA CONSUMER MAGAZINE (with permission) REPRINTED DHHS PUBLICATION NO.(FDA) 91-2236
The composition of infant formula is similar to breast milk, but it isn't a perfect match. Further, the exact chemical makeup of breast milk is still unknown.
"We're always discovering things in human milk that are there in small quantities that hadn't been looked at before," says John C. Wallingford, Ph.D., an infant nutrition specialist with FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "But [infant formula] is increasingly close to breast milk, especially in the area of fatty acids and lipids."
More than half the calories in breast milk come from fat, and the same is true for today's infant formulas. This may be alarming to many American adults watching their intake off at and cholesterol, especially when high saturated fats, such as coconut oil are used in formulas. (High saturated fats tend to increase blood cholesterol levels more than other fats or oils.) But the low-fat diet recommended for adults doesn't apply to infants.
"Infants have a very high energy requirement, and they have a restricted volume of food that they can digest," says Wallingford. "The only way to get the energy density of a food up is to increase the amount of fat."
Homemade Isn't Best
Homemade formulas should not be used, says Nick Duy, assistant to the director in FDA's division of regulatory guidance. Homemade formulas based on whole cows' milk don't meet all of an infant's vitamin and mineral needs. In addition, the high protein content of cow's milk makes it difficult for an infant to digest and may put a strain on the baby's immature kidneys. Substituting evaporated milk for whole milk may make the formula easier to digest, but it is still nutritionally inadequate when compared to commercially prepared formula. Use of soy drinks as an infant formula can actually be life-threatening (see Formula Choices).
Commercially prepared formulas are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as a food for special dietary use. "Infant formulas are the most heavily regulated food that there is," says Wallingford.
FDA regulations specify exact nutrient level requirements for infant formulas, based on recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. The following must be included in all formulas:
In addition, formulas not made with cow's milk must include biotin, choline and inositol.
The safety of commercially prepared formula is also enhanced by strict quality control procedures that require manufacturers to analyze each batch of formula for required nutrients, to test representative samples for stability over the shelf life of the product, to code containers to identify the batch, and to make all records available to FDA investigators.
Dori Stehlin is a staff writer for FDA Consumer.
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Infant Formula - Homemade isn't best