Plant-based and vegan infant formula
Plant-based diets are not only common among adults, the trend is also gaining popularity in the feeding of children and babies. The infant nutrition category is among the most strictly regulated product area, since infants are the most vulnerable group of society and the resctricted variety of their diet makes them more exposed to any contaminants in their food.

There are some new products appearing on the market, e.g., Danone-owned Aptamil and Sprout Organic introducing new plant-based options. In Danone’s formula, 60% protein comes from soy and 40% comes from dairy, thus it is not a vegan product. They decided to keep dairy in theri products, because they did not want to exclude lactose, casein and whey which can be also found in human milk. The producers of Sprout Organic, a wholly vegan baby formula agrue, that rice is the most well tolerated ingredient that does not induce allergies. Vitamins, minerals and fats are also added to their product.

In the European Union, only one plant-based protein is allowed to be used in infant formulas: soy, because soy is the most complete plant-blased protein and has the closest resemblance to dairy ingredients. The disadvantage of soy is that it can be an allergenic agent, especially under 6 months of age. Outside the EU, other plant-based proteins, like rice and pea protein are also used in baby formulas.

Although plant-based formula must also meet strict standards, including nutritional value, some experts are calling for more research and regulation. The potential risks of feeding infants only plant-based/vegan formula include nutrient deficiencies, insufficient protein and fat intake, inadequate calorie intake, especially if manufacturers' instructions are not followed. In addition, allergic reactions may occur, for example to soy-containing formulae, and other food safety risks may arise, for example, if rice protein is used, it is particularly important to check the arsenic content of the formula and to comply with legal requirements.

It's important to consult a paediatrician or other expert before choosing a plant-based formula, carefully monitor the infant's growth and development, and follow the manufacturer's instructions to make sure the baby's nutritional needs are met.


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