The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) concluded that the protein manipulation and addition of fatty acids, vitamins and minerals in infant drinks did not deliver nutritional bonuses to infants compared to normal dairy milk.
"From a nutritional physiological point of view these special milk drinks for infants are not necessary,“ said BfR president professor, Dr Andreas Hensel.
“Enriched vitamins and minerals [in infant milk] rather result in an uncontrolled increase in the supply of some nutrients whereas other vitamins and minerals are included in lower amounts than in cow milk.“
The BfR disputed claims made by many infant drink products that their reduced protein content can deliver obesity benefits to infants and later in life.
“It is currently not sufficiently proven in scientific terms that a reduced protein supply in infancy reduces the risk of obesity and adiposity during the later childhood,“ the BfR said.
“The fat content of infant milk is more or less comparable to the content of whole milk and hence higher than the content in reduced fat milk.“
The agency that investigates a broad range of food safety issues in Germany and is renowned for its conservative approach, added: “Milk products, which are designated as infant milk or children's milk, are not adjusted to the nutritional needs of children aged one to three years. Consequently, they do not meet the requirements of the Ordinance on dietary foods (Diet Ordinance). For infants the consumption of reduced fat cow milk is recommended.“
The group went on to add that vitamin and mineral fortification in infant and children’s products may lead to over-consumption.
“...infant milk products supply other micronutrients such as iron and zinc in higher amounts than cow milk,“ it said. “According to BfR this leads to an uncontrolled supply of these nutrients and involves the risk of a nutrient oversupply.“
“In a balanced child diet infant milk is superfluous. Even if some groups of infants are not optimally supplied with some micronutrients, this cannot be compensated by substituting infant milk for cow milk, because it is questionable whether the products are actually consumed by those who would benefit from an additional nutrient supply.“
Correction: This article has been amended to reflect the fact the BfR report references milk drinks for over-1s, not infant formulas and follow-on formulas for under-1-year-olds.