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Current Position:Home » News » Special Foods » Baby Food » Topic

Infant formula manufacturers closer than ever to replicating true breast milk

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2017-08-07  Views: 10
Core Tip: While ‘breast is best’ is still acknowledged in infant feeding, baby formula manufacturers are investing in the development of formulae that are ever closer to mother’s milk.
While ‘breast is best’ is still acknowledged in infant feeding, baby formula manufacturers are investing in the development of formulae that are ever closer to mother’s milk.

We have come a long way from the early formulae that were really just fortified standard powdered milk. Formulae now contain a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. The fat and protein profile have also been modified to mirror that of breast milk.

Additives that cutting edge in the 1990s and only used in top of the range formula such as nucleotides, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), arachidonic acid (ARA), probiotics, and prebiotics are now commonly found in standard ranges, and even these are being refined and improved to more closely approach the pinnacle of breastfeeding

This is a costly business; Abbott spent $205m on research and development (R&D) in its nutritionals division in 2016, while Mead Johnson invested $97m that year. Regulations on the content of formulae are tight, and products have to undergo clinical trials before they can be approved by the food safety authorities. Even when new ingredients have been improved, strict rules on labelling can mean that manufacturers are unable to promote the benefits of their new formulations.

However, the incentive to improve the nutritional content of infant formula is massive, as the global baby milks market is valued at around $35bn. Parents worldwide are willing to pay extra for the best quality products. Even in times of recession, parents will cut back on spending for themselves rather than sacrifice the best for their babies.

The latest step forward comes from Nestle. After nearly a decade of R&D, its Spanish subsidiary has recently launched a new formulation containing two human milk oligosaccharides (HMO). Human milk contains multiple HMOs and they make up a third of the volume of milk. They play a vital role in reducing infections and creating a healthy gut biome of ‘good bacteria’. As a result, breastfed babies are less prone to infections. In developing countries this can be a life-saver.

However, breastfeeding remains vastly superior to infant formula. It is thought that breast milk contains thousands of compounds that the scientists are nowhere close to replicating, and breast milk is uniquely adapted to the needs of each specific baby. Those who cannot breastfeed, or who choose not to, can be reassured that the formula they are feeding is as closely scrutinised as medicines, and provides many more benefits than simple nutrition.
 
keywords: Infant formula
 
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