“Toddler milk” needs more regulation

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An open letter that was published November 2016 in Healthcare urges government regulators to step up efforts against companies that produce liquid nutritional supplements that are commonly referred to as “toddler milks” because of what the authors say is companies’ misleading and potentially harmful marketing to the parents of children who are ages 6 months and older.

Researchers from Emory University and Georgia State University say regulations allow toddler milks to be displayed in both the formula and health food aisles in supermarkets, and they say the products “are packaged, branded and labeled similarly to infant formula and general foods, making it immensely difficult for consumers to distinguish between the products.”

Dr. Natalie Muth, who is a member of American Academy of Pediatrics’ Section on Obesity and co-author of “The Picky Eater Project: 6 Weeks to Happier, Healthier Family Meals,” says that although less than 10 percent of children need the high-calorie supplements, which have a caloric level of at least 240 per serving, the vast majority of children don’t have to have them.

Muth says manufacturers target minorities—particularly parents who have less education and who have anxiety about a lack of nutrition in their children.

A parent who has a child who is a picky eater might be comforted that at least the child is consuming a supplement, Muth says, but the “instant gratification” response can lead to poor eating habits later in life.

Muth’s advice to parents: “Invest in the process of getting off this stuff and eating real food.” They should make sure that the family eats together at mealtimes, she adds, and they should understand that children sometimes just won’t eat what’s in front of them but gradually will try new foods if those are the only option.