Some milk formulas are four times more expensive than regular milk and packed with more sugar. Now researchers say they could potentially be harmful.
Some milk formulas are four times more expensive than regular milk and packed with more sugar. Now researchers say they could potentially be harmful.

Milk formula could be harming your toddler

Toddler milk formulas are expensive, lack nutritional value and are potentially harmful to young children, a new report has found.

Some milks marketed to one-year-olds are four times more expensive than regular milk - $1.02 a serve compared to 26c, according to a Deakin University and VicHealth study.

VicHealth chief executive Sandro Demaio said toddler milks contained more sugar and had less protein and calcium than regular milk.

"This is potentially dangerous, as toddler milks could be harmful to the health of growing children," Dr Demaio said.

"If children consume these toddler products instead of exploring regular foods and drinks, they won't have a chance to develop healthy eating habits that are vital for a long, healthy and happy life."

 

Ruby, 4, Edie, 3, and Billy, 6. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
Ruby, 4, Edie, 3, and Billy, 6. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

 

Researchers analysed 50 toddler milks and found some also contained up to 8g more sugar per 200ml serve than fresh milk - adding up to 60 teaspoons more sugar a month.

VicHealth is leading calls to end the aggressive marketing of toddler milk formulas, which fall into regulatory loopholes that prohibit the advertising of baby formula.

"Manufacturers are using Instagram influencers, targeted digital advertising and on-pack claims to try and lure Australian families into believing these ridiculously priced products are 'essential' for their child's health," Dr Demaio said.

He said the federal government "must urgently act to set higher standards for more honest labelling of added sugars and how these toddler products are marketed to families".

Researchers also looked at 88 toddler yoghurts and snacks, and found many cost a lot more than regular non-toddler products or unprocessed foods such as fruit. This includes yoghurt which is up to $2.20 more per serve than regular yoghurt and fruit snacks which have up to four times more sugar than fresh fruit.

Deakin University researcher Jennifer McCann said when a child reached 12 months, they could eat and drink regular whole foods, yoghurt, fresh fruit or vegetables.

Avondale Heights mother Claire Schintler said she always opted for nutrient-rich fresh food instead of packaged milks or snacks for her three children.

"I definitely believe packaged milk and food is unnecessary," Ms Schintler said.

"You can give your kids nutrients from whole foods which are a lot cheaper and more accessible for most parents."

 

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susie.obrien@news.com.au

Originally published as How milk formula could be harming your toddler


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