The Mead Johnson company, makers of a leading line of infant formulas (Enfamil), has reached, as Marion Nestle wrote here last month, a new low point in the nation's nutrition history by introducing a product called Enfagrow Premium Chocolate. This is a chocolate-flavored version (it also comes in vanilla) of formula designed for toddlers—ages 12 to 36 months, according to the company—as they transition from infancy to early childhood. The can says "Toddler Formula," which is odd since there is no way children 12 months to 36 months even need formula.
Touting its health benefits, the company sells this as follows:
As your child grows from an infant to a toddler, he's probably becoming pickier about what he eats. Now more than ever, ensuring that he gets complete nutrition can be a challenge. That's why we created new Enfagrow PREMIUM Chocolate with Triple Health Guard™. With over 25 nutrients, Omega-3 DHA, prebiotics, and a great tasting chocolate flavor he'll love, you can help be sure he's getting the nutrition he still needs even after he outgrows infant formula.
Triple Health Guard? It sounds like car wax or water proofing for a couch.
Formula companies have long used direct and aggressive consumer advertising to suggest the health benefits of formula feeding, including brain and eye development, to pregnant and new mothers, and they have expanded their market to include toddlers. There are two major concerns. First is that formula marketing undermines breastfeeding, and second, mother's milk cannot be replicated in a laboratory and is uniquely superior for babies, even protecting them against obesity later in life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding infants until they turn one year old. Health professionals and child advocates concerned with giving children the best possible start in life—and now those concerned with the prevention of obesity—are working hard to encourage as many mothers as possible to breastfeed without formula supplementation as long as possible.
One after another, health organizations note the proven benefits of breastfeeding, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the World Health Organization just beginning the list. Promotion of infant formula undermines a woman's informed decision about how to feed her infant, and therefore can damage the public's health. Moreover, the health claims made for formula products are just that: claims not always backed up by definitive proof. A recent report by the Institute of Medicine made clear that there can be glaring problems with nutrition claims and called for tighter standards. There is special concern over marketing in developing countries by groups like Baby Milk Action.
Far back in time (1981), the World Health Organization developed the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (click here for a PDF) for these very reasons. The U.S. signed on in 1994. Part of this code involves specific language on the protection and promotion of breastfeeding.