WASHINGTON (AP) — After nearly two decades of study, the Food and Drug Administration announced rules Thursday designed to make sure that infant formula is safe and nutritious.
Most formula makers already abide by the practices, but the FDA now will have rules on the books that ensure formula manufacturers test their products for salmonella and other pathogens before distribution. The rules also require formula companies to prove to the FDA that they are including specific nutrients — proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals — in their products.
It is already law that formula must include those nutrients, which help babies stay healthy. But the new rules will help the FDA keep tabs on companies to make sure they are following the law. The rule would require manufacturers to provide data to the FDA proving that their formulas support normal physical growth and that ingredients are of sufficient quality.
"The FDA sets high quality standards for infant formulas because nutritional deficiencies during this critical time of development can have a significant impact on a child's long-term health and well-being," Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, said.
The rules also are aimed at new companies that come into the market. In recent years, grocery store aisles have become even more crowded with new kinds of formula, some capitalizing on natural or organic food trends.
The agency said breastfeeding is strongly recommended for newborns but that 25 percent of infants start out using formula. By three months, two-thirds of infants rely on formula for all or part of their nutrition.
The FDA doesn't approve formulas before they are marketed but formula manufacturers must register with the agency. The FDA also conducts annual inspections of facilities that manufacture infant formula — far more often than the agency does inspections of other food facilities.