Mead Johnson has launched a new infant formula product as part of its Enfamil brand that claims to support cognitive development in babies.
Enfamil NeuroPro delivers a blend of milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) – shown to help close the gap in cognitive development between formula-fed and breastfed infants – and clinically proven amounts of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Mead Johnson, which was bought out by Reckitt Benckiser for $17.9 billion last year, said it was “the first-ever formula in the US” to contain MFGM. It also claimed the combination of DHA and MFGM produced brain-building benefits “similar to breast milk”.
Dr Christina J Valentine, North America medical director for infant formula and child nutrition at Reckitt Benckiser, said: “Enfamil advanced infant nutrition with the addition of a DHA ingredient to formula 17 years ago. Milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) is Enfamil’s biggest advancement to the category since that time and we’re proud to continue leading the way for innovation.”
Dr Valentine said that Mead Johnson’s scientists had used their understanding of “the composition and functional outcomes of breast milk” as the basis for the new product.
Reckitt Benckiser’s US marketing and medical sales general manager for infant formula and child nutrition, Patrick Sly, added: “Whether parents and caregivers choose to breastfeed, formula-feed or supplement, we know that providing infants with the best start is essential. The new NeuroPro formula gives parents and caregivers the option to provide an infant formula with a MFGM and DHA blend for brain-building benefits similar to breast milk for their infants.”
‘Similar to breast milk’
The comparison with human milk has been a thorn in the side of the infant formula industry in recent years; the World Health Organization (WHO) has long held strict standards in relation to the marketing of infant formula products, which are generally considered a ‘next resort’ to breastfeeding.
Specifically, WHO advises brands not to “undermine recommended breastfeeding practices” by suggesting that infant formula products are suitable for infants younger than six months, should be delivered by bottle or using teats, are equal or superior to breastmilk, or can act as a replacement to breastmilk entirely.
But companies have consistently come dangerously close to contravening the guidance, increasingly using claims like “our closest formula to breastmilk yet”.
In February, a report by the Changing Markets Foundation found Nestlé had repeatedly described its infant formula products as “closest to”, “inspired by” and “following the example of” human breastmilk in markets such as Hong Kong, the US and Spain.
Enfamil’s description of NeuroPro as “inspired my human milk”, “similar to breast milk”, “the best start in life” and “recommended by pediatricians” is likely to reignite the debate around infant formula brands and their interpretation of WHO’s guidance.
Mead Johnson also said that Enfamil NeuroPro was the first infant formula in the US “to have a fat-protein blend of brain-building MFGM and DHA previously only found in breast milk”.
Asked whether the company was still committed to WHO’s guidance, a spokesperson for Mead Johnson told FoodBev: “Our goal is to produce the best possible nutrition products for children who are fed infant formula and we strive to understand the composition of human milk in working toward that goal. Enfamil NeuroPro is our newest offering in our portfolio of products that has been backed by decades of research on human milk and multiple clinical studies on its brain-building nutrition.
“While the WHO code was never adopted as law or regulation in the United States, we operate in a manner consistent with the aims of the WHO code, which are to ensure the proper use of breast milk substitutes and help ensure safe and adequate nutrition for infants, whether they are fed breast milk or infant formula.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019