Children up to the age of one that are fed vegetable milk or milk from non-bovine animals as an alternative to breast milk or infant formula are at risk of becoming malnourished, the French Agency for Food, Environment and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) has warned.
In a notice posted on its website, titled ANSES emphasises the risks linked to feeding infants beverages other than breast milk and breast milk substitutes, the agency urged parents not to feed these products to children under the age of one as a breast milk alternative.
According to ANSES, infants fed these drinks are at a higher risk of becoming malnourished suffering from metabolic disorders.
The French food safety authority made the claim following a risk assessment of these alternative milk products. It commenced its investigation after concerns were raised about young children being fed products other than infant formula as a breast milk substitute.
On the back of the assessment, ANSES has recommended that children under the age of one should not be fed vegetable milk products – including soya, rice and almond milk – or milk from goats, donkeys, sheep, or horses as an alternative to breast milk or infant formula.
“Do not” meet infant nutritional needs
“Following reports of more severe cases in very young children who were partially or totally fed drink other than breast milk substitute, ANSES conducted an assessment of the risks associated with feeding these products to infants from birth up to one-year of age,” said the translated ANSES notice.
Following its assessment, the French regulatory body revealed that these products do not meet infant nutritional needs. According to ANSES, any insufficient intake of calories, protein and amino acids, fats, or minerals can affect the growth and brain development of an infant.
“Within a few weeks, such practices may indeed cause under-nourishment and metabolic disorders, which can lead to severe infectious complications and even death of the child,” said the notice.
“ANSES therefore considers that these products should not be used, either exclusively or even partially, in children under the age of one,” said the notice.
“Given the seriousness of deficiency in infants, even temporary, ANSES considers that these products should not be used in children less than one year,” it added.
“Not made for children….”
The notice added that while there is nothing hazardous about these vegetable milk or non-bovine milk products, they were just “not made for children” under a certain age.
“Commonly consumed beverages such as plant milks or non-bovine milks were not made for children under the age of one,” said ANSES.
“The analysis conducted by ANSES shows that while there is nothing inherently dangerous about these products, they do not fully cover the nutritional needs of the infant.”