Although breastfeeding is the recommended way to feed a baby, a safe and nutritious substitute for breast milk is needed for babies who are not breastfed. The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council’s Infant Feeding Guidelines, and the New Zealand Ministry of Health’s Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Infants and Toddlers (Aged 0–2) both recommend that if an infant is not breastfed or is partially breastfed, commercial infant formulas should be used as an alternative to breast milk until 12 months of age.
Infant formula products are regulated under Standard 2.9.1 – Infant Formula Products in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code). There are three types of products covered by this standard:
infant formula (suitable for infants aged 0 - <12 months)
follow-on formula (suitable for infants aged from 6 - <12 months)
infant formula products for special dietary use.
In Australia and New Zealand, infant formula products are available in powdered form and as ready to drink liquid form. All commercially produced infant formula products available in Australia and New Zealand must comply with the composition and safety requirements outlined in the Code. Standard 2.9.1 specifies the mandatory nutrient content for infant formula and follow-on formula to ensure that the nutrition requirements of infants aged up to 12 months are met. This is particularly important for the period up to the introduction of complementary feeding. It also includes labelling requirements for infant formula products and specifically prohibits some types of claims, images and symbols on product labels.
The Code controls food additives that can be added (Standard 1.3.1), as well as sets maximum limits to control food safety risks. Commercial infant formula manufacturers must also have processes and systems in place to minimise risks posed by microbiological pathogens like Salmonella (Standard 1.6.1).
Home-made infant ‘formula’ and ‘brews’
Home-made infant formula and brew recipes are increasingly available online, with no assurance of their safety, nutritional quality or appropriateness for babies. Babies are particularly vulnerable to food safety risks as their immune systems are not yet fully developed. A number of ingredients are potentially ‘high risk’ in home-made formula and brew recipes.