The baby formula market is packed with different brands, which can be quite overwhelming when choosing what is best for your baby. European baby formulas are starting to invade many Americans’ homes because many believe this is a healthier option for their little ones. But what is it that makes European formulas better than Americans?
Let’s start from the beginning. In Europe, we have the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The equivalent to this in America in the Food & Drug Administration. Both parties are responsible setting guidelines and requirements for baby formulas that may be sold on their continent. They set-up the rules and requirements concerning the nutritional composition, the safety of the food/ingredients, and the labeling of the packaging. Thus, Both agencies are responsible for providing guidance and issuing approvals before an infant formula can be sold in their respective country.
Both these parties have set similar compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. They also both regulate that important micronutrients are included in all formulas, such as:
The EFSA and the FDA both require that formulas closely mimic the composition of breast milk. So far, so good.
Yes, we are talking sugar. Breast milk is naturally sweet, so baby formulas do invariably contain sugar. It is the sort of sugar used that can be of concern here. The one that most closely mimics breast milk is lactose. This cow milk-based sweetener is very expensive, and therefore many (American) manufacturers use plant-based sweeteners, such as corn syrup. The European Commission requires that at least 30% of carbohydrates in infant formula come from lactose, as this is the primary carbohydrate source in breast milk. They specifically exclude sources from being used, such as:
Many European baby formulas contain probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics (such as lactobacillus) is also found in breastmilk. This is important for the baby’s gut flora. Although some American cow-milk formulas are catching up, the large majority of them do not contain probiotics or prebiotics.
All European formulas are made with organic ingredients, and nearly all are certified organic. European formula does not contain any Genetically Modified Ingredients (G.M.O.), sucrose, or pesticides. The only formulas that are not certified organic are those that use protein hydrolysates, such as HiPP Anti Reflux or HiPP Hypoallergenic, as protein hydrolysates are not available in organic form. All formulas approved by the European Commission must be produced from animal milk that contains no hormones, no detectable levels of pesticide residues, and no GMO’s. The USFDA only sets out several very basic guidelines to be included in the baby formula. So, as long as the ingredients are somewhat “safe” and not contaminated, they’re good to go.
The reasons speak for themselves. European baby formulas are produced in a healthier and more natural way. The recommendation and guidelines of the EFSA continually evolve as more is discovered about the properties of breastmilk. We are convinced!