by Marion Nestle
Apr 26 2010

Chocolate toddler formula?

Mead-Johnson, the company that prides itself on its “decades-long patterning of infant formulas after breast milk,” now goes one better.  It sells chocolate- and vanilla-flavored formulas for toddlers, fortified with nutrients, omega-3s, and antioxidants.

The company’s philosophy: Your toddler won’t drink milk?  Try chocolate milk!

The unflavored version of this product, Enfagrow, has been around for a while.  In 2005, nutritionists complained about this formula because it so evidently competed with milk as a weaning food.  Mead-Johnson representatives explained that Enfagrow is not meant as an infant formula.  It is meant as a dietary supplement for toddlers aged 12 to 36 months.

Really?  Then how come it is labeled “Toddler Formula”?

And how come it has a Nutrition Facts label, not a Supplement Facts label?

Here’s the list of ingredients for everything present at a level of 2% or more:

  • Whole milk
  • Nonfat milk
  • Sugar
  • Cocoa
  • Galactooligosaccharides (prebiotic fiber)
  • High oleic sunflower oil
  • Maltodextrin

I bought this product at Babies-R-Us in Manhattan.  It’s not cheap: $18.99 for 29 ounces.  The can is supposed to make 22 servings (one-quarter cup of powder mixed with 6 ounces water).  At that price, you pay 86 cents for only six ounces of unnecessarily fortified milk plus unnecessary sugar and chocolate.

No wonder Jamie Oliver encountered so much grief about trying to get sweetened, flavored milks out of schools.

But really, aren’t you worried that your baby might be suffering from a chocolate deficit problem?  Don’t you love the idea of year-old infants drinking sugar-sweetened chocolate milk?  And laced with “omega-3s for brain development, 25 nutrients for healthy growth, and prebiotics to support the immune system”?

Next: let’s genetically modify moms to produce chocolate breast milk!

FDA: this package has front-of-package health claims clearly aimed at babies under the age of two.  Uh oh.  Shouldn’t you be sending out one of those package label warning letters to Mead-Johnson on this one?

Addition, May 1: in response to interest in what other products are made by Mead-Johnson, or its parent, the drug company Bristol-Myers Squibb, I’ve linked their names to product pages.

Addition, May 6: Julie Wernau of the Chicago Tribune did a front page (business section) story on this and is following up on it in her blog.

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  • chris

    When children substitute cows milk for solid food (chocolate or otherwise) the iron intake suffers. If the iron content listed?

  • Christina

    This product brings to mind the ad campaigns that tell kids they need “kid food.” Those messages are extra insidious and despicable because 5-year-olds WILL believe a cartoon character that says they should be eating “fun” food.

    But this product is aimed at parents (toddlers don’t read package labels). It’s so sad that even parents believe their toddlers need their milk to be chocolate-y. I’m pretty sure any toddler given this formula/supplement/whatever will absolutely refuse to drink regular milk, or unsweetened food later in life. How sad!

    I don’t have kids yet, but I’m already dreading the uphill battle I’m going to face with this kind of crap on the market.

  • Courtney

    Chocolate and vanilla toddler formula for toddlers. This product aimed at children’s love for chocolate is like poison. Toddlers will probably wake up each morning insisting on chocolate milk. Providing parents the option to give their toddlers chocolate or vanilla is like a set up. This allows parents to give into their child at an early age. This maybe one of the first steps in developing an obese child. In the future, children who begin drinking this chocolate and vanilla milk probably won’t ever drink real milk or anything of the sort.

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  • Marie

    Speechless, I can’t even believe this product was considered by the manufacturers!!!

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  • Aamir Berni

    I respect criticism but as an average father of two (aged 4.5 and 1), my personal experience has been this:

    1. Cow’s milk, buffalo’s milk and other foods are definitely less compatible with human milk. Nestle aptly warns against using their ordinary whole milk for children less than 3 years old. I don’t think they are idiots who want to hurt their sales unnecessarily. Two out of three doctors we consulted advised against whole milk for children. They further told us that formula milks are there because some mothers need them. They also said giving milk was better than not giving it (Muslim (cult)ure discourages breastfeeding especially in public places.)

    2. Not only children, but also adults hate plain milk. All my relatives add sugar or buy flavored milk for themselves and their babies. Cow’s milk SUCKS. Ever since flavored milk entered local market, other milks have gone home: to the poor calfs.

    3. My personal experience with (breasfeed plus) Enfalac and Enfagrow agrees fully with MeadJohnson’s claims. It maybe a psychological (placebo) effect but everybody agrees that my son, now 4.5 is WAY smarter than his parents. His sharp brains, total recall memory and alertness is simply amazing. My nephew (on breastmilk+Nido) was aged 3 years when he weighed 18 kgs and the physician said his health was “poor”, he was obese and he suffered low iron problem and general weakness that resulted in isolation/lack of self-confidence.

    When I showed my son at age 3, he weighed 19 kgs and I showed concern for his obesity but the physician said “the abolute weight does not tell the whole story. Your son’s body and hight suggest his weight is perfect” and he showed me a growth chart and I confirmed that from website.

    I then said “but he frequently complains of tiredness” and the physician said skeptically “you need a closer observation” and afterwords, I found out – to my surprise – that he indeed was actually mimicking me. At age 4.5, he can play whole roles mimicking either me or his mother, including complete “mock” phone calls, guest reception, disputes, electrical repairs, shopping etc.

    I’m dead sure he’s way smarter than his peers because with a few mouse clicks or a few button presses, he can really give me a challenge to fix what he has corrupted in my computer or mobile phone. After I make the repairs, he either repeats the same troubles or creates new ones.

    Once, we observed strange pattern on a wall. There were small holes in an almost perfect straight, horizontal line. We really thought some burglar did it but in the evening, we saw our son make another line beneath the first one using my hammer and nail! Imagine our surprise & embarrassment, ha ha.

    I don’t want to push it much but I have drunk Enfagrow as I tasted the old Nestle Cerelac (I always taste everything before giving it to my children.) Enfagrow tastes great while old Cerelac sucked. Now you tell me honestly: What good nutrients are if they don’t taste good?

    MeadJohnson is partially also true when they claim their milk is superior to commercial “fruit” juices because most of them are just flavored water with calorie bombs.

    That’s all and it’s all my personal experience and not a professional’s opinion nor based on any statistical survey or medical study. Thank you.