Are All Toddler Milks Created Equal? Why being Aussie Owned and Packed Makes a Difference.

In recent times, we have seen an increase in reports about toddler milk drinks and how bad they can be for our kids.  These articles often compare toddler milk drinks to regular cow’s milk, resulting in some negative press for the nutrition companies that create these products.

There are two key messages that must be shared.  Firstly, not all toddler milks are the same.  Just like any other product, all ingredients must pass rigorous reviews so that informed decisions can be made.  Secondly, a good toddler milk is “Cow’s Milk and More”.  Let us explain.

Why being Aussie is Great!

In Australia, we are lucky.  We have very strict guidelines about the types and quantity of supplements (vitamins, minerals and electrolytes etc.) that can be included in Infant & Follow-On Formulas.  Our governing body is Food Safety Australia & New Zealand (FSANZ).  FSANZ is an independent agency established by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 and is overseen by an Australian Government Minister managing the Health Portfolio[1].

There are also FSANZ guidelines for products such as Toddler Milk that fall into the category of ‘Formulated Supplementary food for young children (1-3yrs)’.

These guidelines are very prescriptive and even outline how the product must be described on its packaging and the health claims that can be made about the product itself.  We are a highly regulated industry and that’s done with good reason.  We are creating formulas for little ones and that is a huge responsibility.

First things first, we need to remember we are creating formulas to support the growth of little humans, not little cows, so comparing products to cow’s milk doesn’t make sense.

It’s indisputable that human breast milk is best for babies; however, for some parents, breast feeding doesn’t work out. For others, bottle feeding is an active choice.  Either way, our driver as a business is the same: create a formula that supports little humans grow.  That means modelling our formulas on human breast milk and doing the best we can.

We use Australian A2 Protein Milk as our base – to this we carefully add vitamins, minerals and other supplements to support a little one’s growth.  We like to think of our formulas as ‘Cow’s Milk and More’.  More of the good stuff, of course. We are free from sucrose, artificial colours, flavours and preservatives, maltodextrin, GMO & palm oil.

There are 3 areas of nutrition that are often discussed with regards to toddler milks: the Protein, Sugars, and Calcium levels in products.  

Now we know that not everyone is interested in the science, but we think it’s important to share it here to help parents understand the strict Australian regulations that are in place to protect the health of their babies and toddlers.  

First, let’s have a look at Protein levels.

FSANZ’s provide guidelines for the minimum and maximum levels of protein that can be added to Infant & Follow-On formulas.*  While the guidelines for formulated supplementary food for young children (1-3yr) do not state a maximum, it is required that a serve must contain no less than 2.5 g protein.  Beta A2 Nutritional Toddler Milk provides more than double this for a 200ml serve (5.2g) and supplies 37% of a toddlers recommended daily intake of protein [2].

The Beta A2 Nutritional Toddler Milk protein level is lower than that of cow’s milk at 6.8g/200ml; however, we need to remember we are supporting the growth of little humans, not little cows. This is why we follow human guidelines. 

A point of interest – recent clinical trials suggest that lowering protein levels further in Infant and Follow-On formulas better supports the growth and development of babies, and there are proposed European Standards changes to implement these findings [3] [4] [5].  The protein levels in our formulations are in some ways a response to this, whilst remaining within the FSANZ guidelines.  We recognise this is as a really important area of research to keep an eye on.

Now on to Calcium

Again, FSANZ provide minimum & maximum guidelines for calcium levels for Infant and Follow-On formulas and Beta A2 is compliant with these**.

While FSANZ does not set calcium guidelines for the amount that can be added to Toddler Milk, the Australian Government Dept of Health and Aging provide Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand which outline intake level guidelines2.  The recommended daily intake of calcium for a toddler (1-3yrs) is 500mg/day.  A 200ml serve of Beta A2 Nutritional Toddler Milk provides almost 50% of the daily recommended requirements of calcium intake.

At each step of product development, we are gathering the best regulatory advice available to support your little one’s health and growth and mindfully implement these.  We believe that by doing this, we are creating great nutrition each step of the way.

 Finally, Sugar.

Beta A2 Nutritional Toddler Milk has no added sucrose (also known as table sugar), as it only contains the natural sugar found in all mammalian milk, known as lactose.

Compared to milk from other mammals, human milk is considered unique in its high sugar content. It contains about 70 g/L lactose (7%)[6] , whereas cow’s milk (containing on average 4-5% lactose) is actually less sweet than breast milk, which is undoubtedly the perfect first food for babies. Beta A2 Nutritional Toddler milk contains 79g/L Lactose (7.9%) so it is a similar sweetness to breast milk and therefore it will not encourage a sweetened palate in young children. 

Interestingly, FSANZ allows for a range of sugars to be added including lactose, sucrose, glucose and maltodextrins.  Ultimately, our choice to add lactose rather than sucrose reflects the fact that we are modelling our product on what mother nature designed for little humans, and that means slightly higher levels of natural sugar compared to cow’s milk.  It just makes sense.

Nutritional Toddler Milk should only be supplementary to a diet.

The formula industry has been placed under scrutiny for not making it clear that toddler milks should only be supplementary to a varied diet when energy and nutrient intakes may not be adequate.

Both FSANZ and World Health Organisation (WHO) provide guidelines about the language that must be used on Toddler Milk packaging.  Beta A2 follow these guidelines and state that the formulation is

“FORMULATED SUPPLEMENTARY FOOD FOR YOUNG CHILDREN – it is specially formulated to be offered along with their food to support their intake of energy and nutrients, and is especially valuable where normal dietary intake may not be adequate.”

This message is important to us and with the assistance of expert nutritionists, we create marketing materials to support this product statement. This includes the following visuals:

We believe that by taking these educational steps, we are reducing concerns that our Nutritional Toddler Milk may cause the displacement of whole foods.  We have also created a Fussy Eaters Challenge with our Nutritionist Kate DiPrima, a video series providing great advice on how to support those young ones that are challenged with incorporating new foods into their diets.  We’ve combined this with healthy and fun recipes that incorporate our Nutritional Toddler Milk, which again supports the overall nutritional intake of little ones.  (Check out our Facebook page for details).

What we can’t talk about

 You are hopefully getting an understanding now of how highly regulated this industry is.  We have very clear guidelines about what we can say about the supplements that we add.

We can mention the added calcium and magnesium that support healthy bones and teeth, the iron which supports normal cognitive development, plus the zinc which helps to support your child’s immune system.  Then there is the added Vitamin A, C, D and E to contribute to the natural growth and development of your toddler.  These are the regulated statements, which help us to all appear similar, and more importantly, not any better than breast milk.

We are not allowed to mention the Omega Oils (DHA & ARA) which we add to support cognition functions, visual acuity, and immune responses, or the Prebiotics (FOS & GOS) which feed and nourish the gut micro-biome, to assist digestion.  Human milk has these, so we add them because we believe they are important for little ones, even though we can’t talk about them.  The marketing restrictions may make it hard to recognise, but we really do have your little human’s best interest at heart.  We know we can never be as good as breast milk, but for those little one’s that need us, they should be able to get the very best we can offer.

 Crunching the cost numbers.

While it’s easy to compare the cost of cow’s milk against toddler milk, it’s important to remember that a good Nutritional Toddler Milk is ‘Cow’s Milk and More’.  That means your toddler is getting all the benefits of cow’s milk, with the addition of supplements (vitamins, minerals, omega oils, prebiotics and more), at little human requirement levels.  Just check the ingredients list and make sure milk powder is one of the first ingredients listed.

Why should Toddlers miss out?

As adults, most of us supplement our diets with vitamins, minerals, protein powders, etc. 

At Beta A2, we truly believe in the benefits of supplementing our diets at all stages of life. Toddlers should not be left out.

At the end of the day, nourishment for growing children comes from a balanced diet containing protein for muscles and growth, carbohydrates for energy, fat for essential absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and fibre for healthy digestion.

The Beta A2 range is formulated to the strict Food Safety Standards of Australia to ensure they are balanced to the requirements of growing little ones and adults alike.   We are confident with the formulas we have created and continuously look for ways to improve our entire range wherever we can whilst meeting regulatory guidelines.  We believe this is the best and safest approach, if not the only acceptable one.

[1] Food Standards Australia New Zealand.  https://www.foodstandards.gov.au

* Infant formula there must be a protein content of no less than 0.45 g/100 kJ and no more than 0.7 g/100 kJ; (Beta A2 Infant Formula has 0.49g/100kj).

While for Follow-On formulas there must be a protein content of no less than 0.38 g/100 kJ and no more than 1.3 g/100 kJ; (Beta A2 Follow-On has 0.63g/100kj).

[2] Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, Ministry of Health, Australian Government.  www.nrv.gov.au

[3] https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/article/74017/the-benefits-of-lower-protein-infant-and-follow-on-formula-and-the-long-term-impact-on-health

[4] Ziegler, E., Fields, D., Chernausek, S. et al. (2015). Adequacy of infant formula with protein content of 1.6g/100kcal for infants between 3 and 12 months. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 61(5), 596 – 603.

[5] Inostroza, J. Haschke, F., Steenhour, P., Grathwohl, D., Nelson, S. & Ziegler, E. (2014). Low-protein formula slows weight gain infants of overweight mothers. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 59(1), 70 – 77.

** FSANZ Calcium Guidelines for Infant Formula and Follow On – 12mg/100kj min – 33mg/100kj max (Beta A2 Infant Formula has 19.1/100kj & Beta A2 Follow-On has 24.65kj/100kj).

[6] The Importance of Lactose in the Human Diet: Outcomes of a Mexican Consensus Meeting Nutrients. 2019 Nov; 11(11): 2737. Published online 2019 Nov 12. doi: 10.3390/nu11112737

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6893676/

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