We are doing science for policy
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
JRC scientists reviewed current nutrient recommendations and food-based dietary guidelines for infants and young children in Europe. They also examined nutritional characteristics of food products marketed for consumption by this age group in EU markets. This work supports the development of a delegated act that will regulate specific compositional and information requirements for such foodstuffs.
Introducing children to healthy and diverse foods at an early age helps to establish taste preferences and good eating habits later in life. This can be accomplished using common family foods.
In addition, the so-called processed cereal based food (PCBF) and baby food are also available on the market, for weaning infants and as a supplement in the diet of young children and/or for their progressive adaptation to ordinary food. In the EU, their compositional and information requirements are regulated and are currently being updated.
This JRC report describes current EU nutrient and food based dietary guidelines and recommendations for both infant and young child feeding age (from 4-6 months to 3 years). It also provides a non-exhaustive analysis of PCBF and baby food products in EU markets. The analysis for almost 4200 products (re-)launched by industry in various EU markets over a recent 5-year period further informs and complements this work.
Most food-based dietary guidelines recommend that infants and young children eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods with limited amounts of sugars, fat and salt.
An important fraction of the products analysed are well aligned with the recommendations for most of the nutrients. However, certain baby food subcategories or products on the EU markets could be contributing a considerable amount of (total or added or free) sugars or sodium to the children's diets.
This JRC report provides the basis for setting requirements in support of the planned revision of nutritional or compositional requirements for PCBF and baby food in the EU.