by Marion Nestle
Jun 12 2010

Mead-Johnson defends Vanilla Enfagrow

A reporter sent me this message from Christopher Perille, Mead-Johnson’s Vice President – Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, about the company’s Chocolate and Vanilla sweetened Enfagrow toddler formula, advertised with health claims.  It seems only fair to present the company’s defense of its products.  Here’s what he says:

Enfagrow Premium products contain a balanced blend of protein, fat, carbohydrates and other key nutrients, offered in a form designed to be appealing to even the pickiest eaters. These products were introduced in the U.S. to provide additional nutrition as part of a normal healthy diet for toddlers who have been weaned off breast milk or infant formula. While we recognize that each toddler — and his or her eating habits and nutritional needs — are different, they can often have rather narrow palettes and relatively short lists of acceptable foods. My daughter, for one, had an extended period of time during which hot dogs, chicken fingers and french fries were three of her primary food groups. Happily, her tastes eventually expanded, and she is now a healthy and happy sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis — but there was certainly a time when I was concerned whether or not she was getting all the nutrition she needed.

Enfagrow Premium vanilla has been in the marketplace for nearly a year and has elicited numerous positive comments from grateful parents. They have told us that they consider these products an important option for helping to meet their child’s overall nutritional needs, especially those who are picky or erratic eaters, so as to help provide additional assurance that toddlers achieve their recommended nutrient intake.

As we discussed, you were looking at older packaging. The current labeling for Enfagrow Premium vanilla, indicates 17 grams of total sugar, but even that is overstated due to precautionary rounding — the real figure probably falls closer to 15 (14-16). The majority (approximately three-quarters) of the sugar in our product comes from lactose (that is naturally occurring in milk). So while we do add a small amount of sugar (about 4 grams or 1 teaspoon in a 7 fl. oz. serving) to our Enfamil Premium vanilla product to improve the for finicky eaters, the sugar in our flavoring equates to about 15 calories and is less than 2% of a toddler’s daily allowance of calories.

By comparison, the chocolate-flavored version contained less lactose and required more added sugar to overcome the bitterness of cocoa to make it palatable, so the sugar from lactose accounted for just over half the total sugar.

Even with the added 15 calories of sweetness, Enfagrow Premium vanilla has a superior nutritional profile to many other beverages regularly consumed by toddlers – including apple juice, grape juice and similarly flavored dairy drinks.

Enfagrow products also have beneficial ingredients include iron to help support brain growth and antioxidants and other nutrients to help support the immune system. Additionally these products are also a source of Omega-3 DHA and prebiotics, both of which are lacking in milk. Finally, these products exceed whole milk – serving for serving – for important vitamins such as A, B1, B6, C and E.

Enfagrow Premium products – flavored and unflavored – can be part of a balanced diet, which in combination with routine physical activity and an overall healthy lifestyle, can help avoid obesity. In fact, a peer reviewed article published in April 2008 in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association – based on a study of over 7,500 children and adolescents from ages 2 to 18 – found that consumption of either flavored or plain milk is associated with a positive influence on nutrient intakes by children and adolescents. Additionally, consumption of flavored milk was not associated with adverse effects on Body Mass Index (BMI), a commonly used indicator of obesity.

Convinced?  I’ve said all I have to say about these products in previous posts.  You decide.

Comments

  • K
  • June 12, 2010
  • 11:01 am

I am amused by the “offered in a form designed to be appealing to even the pickiest eaters.” I had the pleasure of sampling this product — after a year of receiving cans of Enfamil infant formula in the mail with exhortations to “supplement” my breastfed daughter, this stuff showed up around her first birthday, and my curiousity got the better of me. It was a fiercely nauseating swill, awful taste, awful aftertaste. It seemed to be skim milk laden with icing sugar and chemicals, which turned out to be pretty spot on. Taste-wise it is certainly not recognizable as “food.”

Ugh. I wrote a blog post a while back on the problems of added sugars: the fact that, with our current food labeling system, they are difficult to distinguish from sugars that occur naturally has offered food processors license to sweeten nearly everything. We are teaching ourselves and our children to respond only to artificially heightened sweetness and all the empty, inexpensive calories that go along with it. As you show here, this starts frighteningly early.

  • Pauline
  • June 12, 2010
  • 1:15 pm

1) “My daughter, for one, had an extended period of time during which hot dogs, chicken fingers and french fries were three of her primary food groups.” So chocolate formula is better than hot dogs, chicken fingers and french fries? Not a particularly strong nutritional claim.

2) “…there was certainly a time when I was concerned whether or not she was getting all the nutrition she needed.” Not surprising, if she was being offered hot dogs, chicken fingers, and french fries as the core of her daily diet.

3) Some back-of-the-envelope calculations:
Vanilla = 17g of sugar, with 12 of that from the milk. So 4-5 grams of sugar in the vanilla.
Chocolate = same amount of sugar as lactose, so about 9 grams of sugar, 2 teaspoons, in a 7oz glass of chocolate.
Never would I hand a toddler two teaspoons of sugar daily; they really don’t need *any*. Fresh fruit is plenty sweet.

4) “Even with the added 15 calories of sweetness, Enfagrow Premium vanilla has a superior nutritional profile to many other beverages regularly consumed by toddlers – including apple juice, grape juice and similarly flavored dairy drinks.” So, compared to other overly-sweet drinks, Enfagrow is about the same? The vanilla, anyway, the chocolate having twice as much sugar.

5) 30 extra calories a day = about 11,000 a year, or 3 extra pounds. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but on a toddler, that’s significant.

5) Moms can always add cocoa and sugar to their children’s milk if they see a need. No need for this overpriced product.

6) This product is not as bad as lowfat “grabba milk”, which is widely available at convenience stores and has a whopping 580 calories in a 16 ounce bottle.
http://dailyburn.com/nutrition/rosenbergers_grabba_milk_-_chocolate_calories

  • Joy
  • June 13, 2010
  • 10:04 am

That this food industry spokesperson can, in all sincerity, say that a teaspoon of sugar in seven ounces of beverage is acceptable is proof that American tastes have sunk to a very low standard of flavor enhancement. This is the path down which the food industry is leading. They’ve gone way past enhancing food with a little sweetener to providing sugar-based food products with a hint of actual food flavoring. Do we want to breed humans that cannot stomach food unless laced with toxic and overpowering levels of sugar? Referring to FP’s other posts, how – in a any respect – is this either sensible or freedom of speech?

  • Anthro
  • June 13, 2010
  • 6:49 pm

I agree with all of the above, especially Pauline.

While the letter overflows with sentimentality, the fact remains that Enfagrow is a useless product with little to no “redeeming social value”.

I never had a so-called “picky eater”. Children will either eat what you give them or not. If they don’t, they are likely not all that hungry. My doctor always told me not to worry if they didn’t eat now and then, that that was normal. They all grew up to be healthy and whole. It seems pointless to try to entice a toddler to eat by offering her something sweet rather than a piece of something like fruit or veggies that you know she likes.

  • Natalie
  • June 14, 2010
  • 10:13 am

1) “the sugar in our flavoring equates to about 15 calories and is less than 2% of a toddler’s daily allowance of calories.” — How can he say this when there is not daily allowance set up for children under 2?
2){“flavored and unflavored – can be part of a balanced diet, which in combination with routine physical activity and an overall healthy lifestyle, can help avoid obesity. ” — I don’t know of any 1 to 2 year old with a work out routine. I think he is ridiculous.

  • Pete
  • June 14, 2010
  • 12:56 pm

Wow! Spinning out of control there. Pauline nailed it really. You feed your own kid chicken fingers and hot dogs, yeah that fills me with loads of confidence that you care bout other people’s kids.

  • Nikki
  • June 14, 2010
  • 2:01 pm

I just had to say how *surprised* I was that a toddler would eat salty, fatty foods when they are GIVEN to her. (Can you feel the sarcasm?) ‘Oh no, all we are feeding her is garbage. Quick, better give her some sugary nutrition-powder to make up for it.’ There are so many things wrong with this.

Also, in the first paragraph, it should be ‘palates’ and not ‘palettes.’ The latter is for paint, color samples and such. I would think these guys had editors…

  • Cathy Richards
  • June 15, 2010
  • 8:59 pm

This spokesperson seriously needs to read Satter’s books on the Feeding Relationship before her grown daughter has any grandchildren. Cater cooking to a picky toddler — there’s no doubt this spokesperson found relief in enfagrow…

Enfagrow has a role in medical situations. But it’s use in ‘picky eating’ situations is worse than putting a bandaid on a cut while your child is playing with scissors. Take the scissors away you silly parent!

  • Victoria
  • June 15, 2010
  • 9:37 pm

Thanks for sharing their side, I still agree with yours. I love your blog!

  • Gina
  • June 29, 2010
  • 11:43 pm

Having worked in the food industry for over a decade, I’m familiar with all the marketing tactics and pr spin put on messages. The bottom line is always profits – and if there is a market, it will be served.

On the flip side, we vote for companies, their products and values every day with our dollar. If consumers stop buying products that are not nutritionally sound for their children, they will not be made.

Our dollars work much harder and faster than any government regulation.

  • Paula
  • July 1, 2010
  • 6:29 pm

Put me in the “unconvinced” camp.

I am lucky to live in Australia where the health advice for new parents is excellent (and free). Maternal and child health nurses provide routine care for children and advice for families, and before my children were born they modified their language to talk about “offering” food to children, not feeding them.
Adults don’t decide what children eat- we only get to decide what to offer. Plus, it’s important to hear a medical professional say, “Offer good food, and they won’t starve”.

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