I don't like writing about formula issues. I'd really prefer to stick to just supporting breastfeeding, which is a big enough topic in itself. But there have been two stories in the news recently about formula recently which seem to be begging for a response.*
First, in February, Enfamil added two new products to its line of formulas: Enfagrow Chocolate and Vanilla.
This product is supposed to be marketed for toddlers. In the U.K. "follow on milks" for toddlers are popular, but the idea has never really caught on in the U.S., where we usually introduce whole cow's milk after the first year. But there's nothing like chocolate to entice people into the market!
The Chicago Tribune reports:
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"The toddler years can be particularly challenging since food preferences may be erratic and unpredictable," said Mead Johnson spokesman Chris Perille. "Products such as Enfagrow Premium can play a role in helping children achieve a more balanced, healthy daily diet."
Perille said the idea is to get a toddler to consume milk, even flavored milk, because it will lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, disagreed.
Nestle, who purchased a 29-ounce package of Enfagrow for $18.99 (22 servings) to study the product, said it will lead children who drink it to crave sugary beverages.
"You want kids to be interested in eating a very, very wide range of foods because variety helps create nutritional balance," she said. "You don't want them to think that every food needs to be sweet or salty."
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Enfamil says that this product is for use by toddlers, but the write up for it on the Babies R Us site says, "Flavored chocolate for Baby's liking!"
So, when there is broad consensus that we have a childhood obesity epidemic on our hands (nearly 20% of 6-11 year old are obese, a tripling in the lat 30 years), the solution is chocolate toddler formula?
Next, you may remember that Mead Johnson, maker of Enfamil, was caught (thanks to a reader of this blog) using the phrase "the breastmilk formula" on its website a while back.
The company is in trouble again, reportedly caught making deceptive advertising claims about Enfamil for a fifth time. This time the finding came from the Better Business Bureau, which found its campaign claiming the benefits of its "triple health guard" to be "not supported by the evidence in the record."
The ad to the right is part of that campaign. I'd seen it, and was pretty astonished at how effective it seemed in raising fears of vision problems.
The sad thing? I read the press release from the Better Business Bureau, and only the issue they addressed was Mead Johnson's claim that their DHA supplemented formula is superior to their competitor's DHA formula. Who do you think the "challenger" in the complaint was? There is nothing in the finding about whether their claims about the benefits are legitimate, whether the above ad is a fair representation to the public, and certainly not about whether it represents a violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. But, what was I thinking...
*Thanks to my friend Beth and Bettina at Best for Babes for pointing these stories out!