Breast milk, the most natural source of essential nutrients for the infants, contains protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals that can be easily digested. Besides catering to the infants’ nutritional needs and absorption, breast milk consists of abundant in natural antibodies to strengthen the infants’ immune system and improve their physique. It provides balanced and adequate nutrition to the infants from birth to six months of age. However, when breastfeeding is difficult or unfeasible, parents would choose infant formula to feed their babies. Therefore, the safety and sufficiency of nutrients in these products are vital for the infants ‘growth and healthy development.
What are the nutrients in infant formula?
Infant formula refers to a powdered or liquid form of breast-milk substitute that is specially formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of infants from birth to the first few months. Nowadays, though the nutritional composition of infant formula available on the market is basically mimics of breast milk, it is important to make sure that this formula can provide the essential nutrients for the infants’ growth and development.
Please read the list below for details:
Basic composition of nutrients in infant formula
Energy – Support the infants’ physical activity, and maintain their quick growth and development.
Protein – Mainly from soy protein and milk protein, which are crucial for the infants’ growth development, such as, building muscle, strengthening their bone and teeth.
Fat – Maintain the functioning of cell membranes, transport and storage of fat-soluble vitamins, and it is essential for the infants to develop their brain and eyes.
Carbohydrate – Primary source of energy. It helps the fats and proteins to serve the vital bodily functions in the infants and young children.
Vitamins and Minerals (e.g. vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, sodium, etc.) – The required amounts are little, yet it is the necessary nutrients for infants and young children to maintain their growth development and facilitate the normal function of body activity.
Other Ingredients – e.g. choline, inositol and taurine.
Is it necessary to add extra nutrients into infant formula?
Other than the aforesaid basic nutritional components, manufacturers of infant formula often add other ingredients (e.g. nucleotides and probiotics), which are claimed to have beneficial on the infant’s immune system and gut health; however, there is no international consensus. According to the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), the first six-month baby should be exclusively fed on mother’s breast milk or infant formula, which meets the infant’s nutrients requirement in the product standard adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Nevertheless, excessive nutrients in the infant formula may burden the baby’s metabolic activity, whose body needs to excrete the unabsorbed or unutilised nutrients.
Regulation of infant formula in Macao
The Administrative Regulation No. 28/2016 “Requirements for Nutritional Ingredients in Infant Formula” has promulgated since November 2016. It explicitly regulates the nutritional components of infant formula (except of the formulas for special medical purpose intended of infants), and specifies the content and ratio of energy and various nutritional ingredients so that it can comply with the international standard. Moreover, when the infant formula is imported into Macao, it is necessary for the importer to submit an import application to the competent authority; then, the products must pass the mandatory hygiene and quarantine inspection prior to enter the local market. With regard to market surveillance, the Department of Food Safety is constantly to conduct a Targeted Food Surveillance on infant formula. The analytic tests include of detecting the pathogenic microorganisms, chemicals and nutritional ingredients so as to safeguard the health of infants and young children.
How should parents choose infant formula for their babies and young children?
After the enforcement of Administrative Regulation No. 28/2016 "Requirements for Nutritional Ingredients in Infant Formula”, in general, the infant formula sold on the market must conform to the requirements of nutritional composition stated in the standard. Since different infant formulas are similar in nutritional components, parents can choose any brand of infant formula for their infants and young children. They should check the nutritional content from the nutrition fact label on the packaging to choose the most suitable infant formula. Moreover, they should prepare the infant formula according to the instructions indicated on the packaging.