From What to Expect: Why Nestlé Is Under Fire for Its Infant Formula Claims

by Katherine Lee on February 9, 2018

…A recent report by Changing Markets, a Netherlands-based group that works to “create and support campaigns that shift market share away from unsustainable products and companies and towards environmentally and socially beneficial solutions,” calls out Nestlé, one of the top makers of infant milk such as Gerber brands here in the U.S., for what it says are claims made on their products and in ads that are not based on nutrition science but are driven by “a sharp and prioritized focus on profit and growth at the expense of infants and their parents.”

What to Know About Feeding Your Baby

While reports like the ones released by Changing Markets shed an important light on the need for truth in advertising, particularly for products that are so integral to infant health, parents can take comfort in the fact that there are already some good safety nets in place to protect little ones who need formula. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict laws and regulations relating to the manufacture of baby formula for marketing in the U.S. “In the U.S., we enjoy protection by the FDA, which can address safety issues,” says Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, M.D., co-founder of Fed is Best and an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. (Fed is Best is an organization that provides education about how to give babies the nutrition they need, whether it’s through breastfeeding, pumped-milk feeding, formula-feeding, or feeding both breast milk and formula in order to avoid problems like jaundice, hypoglycemia, and dehydration, which can threaten a newborn’s brain.)

That said, science-based and factual claims, and better manufacturing restrictions prohibiting the addition of ingredients that aren’t proven to be beneficial or healthy, are important steps that must be taken. “We oppose any untruthful and unethical marketing of infant feeding products and services, whether it be formula- or breastfeeding related, particularly if aspects of the product or service can result in harm to an infant,” says del Castillo-Hegyi.

Some other information to keep in mind:

Ultimately, fed is best. The most important thing parents should remember is that their baby should receive enough nutrition for their brains and bodies to grow, says Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi. “So for parents worrying about the different choices they have with regard to breast milk, formula or specially-formulated formula, luckily, the differences pale in comparison to the benefits of a child who receives their full nutritional requirement without compromise with breast milk, formula or both,” Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi says.

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