An infant is the very young child who cannot walk or talk. Babies from birth to 1 year of age are placed in this category. Generally the mother’s milk is considered to be most important as the infant food but there are other sources also which are needed to meet the nutritional needs of the child. The need for supplementary food arises because the mother’s milk is not adequate to the meet the nutritional needs of babies. Form 0-6 months the baby must only be given liquid diet such as fresh fruit juices that too 4-5 ounces a day. After 6 months the baby can be feed with semi liquid foods like barley, well mashed rice, cereals, etc.
Although nutrition is important in all phases of life but in the primitive ages it becomes highly recommended. Lack of nutrition in infants lead to high mortality rate; especially in developing or under developed nations like India. Sierra Leone accounted for highest infant mortality at 107 out of 1000 in the year 2013-14 whereas India recorded 41 out of 1000; as per World Health Organization (WHO) Global Health Report 2014.
As per the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) the infant foods are divided in following categories:
- Infant Milk Food: It is prepared by spray drying of cow or buffalo milk or both. The skimmed milk may be altered by adding or removing of different milk solids, carbohydrate, salts, vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrates that are substituted with the milk food can be sucrose, maltose, dextrose and lactose. Salts may include phosphates and citrates. Vitamins such as A, B, D group and vitamin C and K can be added. And minerals which can be added are Iron, Copper, Zinc, Magnesium, Potassium and Iodine. The packaging of infant milk should be done properly in substrate made of board paper, polyethylene; polyester metalized film so that it could be prevented from any attack from the foreign agents such as bacteria. There are permissible limits of vitamins and minerals that are added to the packaged food as per the FSSAI which the food business operators must not surpass.
- Infant Formula: It is much similar as the infant food with some variations such as vegetable oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids are added to the spray dried milk. Babies cannot digest the saturated fatty acids so the vegetable oils are added. Vegetables oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids shall be added to partially substitute milk fat to an extent that the product shall contain a minimum of 12 per cent by weight of milk fat and a minimum of linoleate content of 1.398 g per 100 g. of the product.
The infant formula shall also contain a minimum of 0.70 IU of Vitamin E per 100 Kcal. Other than the regular minerals, vitamins and salts the supplement may also contain Carotenes, Fluorine, Amino acids, Nucleotides, ect.
- Milk-cereal based complementary foods: It is commonly known as the weaning food. This type of food for infants are based on milk, cereals, legumes, pulses, soyabean, millets, nuts and edible oil seeds. It is processed at the low moisture level so as to make it water/milk soluble. This type of food is recommended only after 6 months. It shall contain a minimum of 10 per cent milk protein by weight of the product. It shall also contain minimum 5 per cent milk fat by weight. It shall not contain hydrogenated fats containing trans-fatty acids.
It shall be in the form of powder, small granules or flakes, free from lumps and shall be uniform in appearance. It shall be free from dirt and extraneous matter and free from preservatives and added colour and flavour. It shall be free from any material, which is harmful to human health.
- Processed cereal based complementary food: It is also known as weaning food or supplementary food. It is based on cereals, legumes, pulses, soyabean, millets, nuts and edible oil seeds. It is processed at the low moisture level so as to make it water/milk soluble. It is recommended for the children of age group from 6 months to 2 years.
It shall contain milled cereal and legumes combined not less than 75 percent. Where the product is intended to be mixed with water before consumption, the minimum content of protein shall not be less than 15% on a dry weight basis. The sodium content of the products shall not exceed 100 mg/100 gram of the ready-to-eat product. It should be taken care of that hydrogenated fats containing trans-fatty acids are not added to the products.
- Follow-up Formula Complementary Food: It is also prepared by spray drying the cow or buffalo milk or mixture of both. It may also contain vegetable proteins. The vegetable protein content must not be less than 3 grams per 100 cal and must not exceed 5.5 gram per 100 cal. The proteins are added in such a manner that it do not substantially impair the vitamin or mineral content of the skimmed milk. Per 100 ml of ready-to-use product must have energy component between 60 Kcal and 85 Kcal both inclusive. The fat content must not be below 4 gram per 100 cal and must not exceed 6 gram per 100 cal.
It may also contain other nutrients when required to ensure that the product is suitable to form part of a mixed feeding scheme intended for use after six months of age till 2 years of age. When any of these nutrients is added, the food shall contain not less than Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) amounts of these nutrients.
We have discussed above regarding the infant foods and their types as per FSSAI. There are certain requirements adhered to the manufacturing and packaging of such food items as laid down by the FSSAI. The rules thus framed have to be followed by the food business operators to provide safe food to the consumers; so that they can take a wise decision. Details of regulations relating to infant food would be discussed in our upcoming articles.