Baby Milk Action has been highlighting for many years that follow-on milks and so-called growing-up milks are unnecessary products. The World Health Organisation issued a new report in July 2013 restating this point. First Steps Nutrition Trust has analysed the composition of fortified milks for toddlers and warned that "the voluntary fortification of foods and drinks needs to be questioned as there is increasing evidence that giving additional nutrients to those who do not need them may have adverse consequences".
Now a new report from the consumer magazine Which? has quantified the extent to which parents are being ripped off. Citing the example of Nestlé's SMA milks, Which? says parents could save £531 by using cow's milk instead of SMA-branded toddler milk, with nutrients such as iron coming from other foods that should be introduced from the age of 6 months in any case.
According to Which?
"A 300ml serving of cow's milk (the government daily recommended serving) provides all the calcium a one to three year old needs. The recommended daily serving of several of the toddler milks does not.
"Cow's milk contains 4.7g sugar per 100ml, compared to 7.9g of sugar per 100ml of Hipp Organic Combiotic Growing up milk. And some daily servings contain twice as much sugar - three teaspoons a day for cow's milk compared to seven teaspoons a day for SMA Toddler milk."
These milks have been introduced by companies to circumvent restrictions on advertising of infant formulas for use from birth and to lead parents through a sequence of milks for the first years of the child's life so they continue to profit from parents.
Danone's television advertisement above links its number 3 milk to breastmilk. In contravention of UK marketing requirements, the Aptamil brand used for infant formula is the focus of the advertising.
According to WHO's statement on the use and marketing of follow-up formula: "Current formulations lead to higher protein intake and lower intake of essential fatty acids, iron, zinc and B vitamins than those recommended by WHO for adequate growth and development of infants and young children."
Unsurprisingly the industry has responded by rubbishing the Which? report. The British Specialist Nutrition Association, whose members include Abbott Nutrition, Danone, Nestlé and Boots, has issued a statement disputing the Which? analysis, in which Director General, Roger Clarke, claims: "Toddler milks are a convenient and healthy way to provide essential nutrients for toddlers".
Which? suggests if there are concerns about vitamin D intake, then this can be provided by a vitamin pill as recommended by the government. It points out that processed milks contain less calcium and more sugar than cow's milk, which can be used from one-year of age (infant formula can be used for babies not breastfed until one-year of age).
The First Steps Nutrition Trust has produced an objective analysis of Fortified milks for children: A worldwide review of fortified milks marketed for children over 1 year. It states:
"Fortified milks are frequently high in sugar and are likely to contribute to higher energy intakes, which may contribute to chronic disease, and the voluntary fortification of foods and drinks needs to be questioned as there is increasing evidence that giving additional nutrients to those who do not need them may have adverse consequences.
"Fortified milks for older children are being irresponsibly marketed to vulnerable population groups worldwide, and stricter and clearer guidance is needed for International, national and local health departments to ensure that recommendations and regulations can be tightened."
Yet the likes of Nestlé and Danone see these milks as a cash cow and are promoting them aggressively around the world.