1) Codex Alimentarius
A United Nations group called the Codex Alimentarius creates standards for the regulation of food and food products by countries (Codex). In particular, it sets standards for the manufacturing of infant formula (formula). It is not immune to politics or the pressures of the formula industry nor are its standards necessarily followed (Arendt 2018; Jacobs 2018; Kent 2015; Koletzko 2006).
It is up to individual countries to decide on their standards, labelling requirements, and acceptable levels of marketing (DiMaggio 2019).
Ideally, labelling is clear and consistent. A summary of the nutritional characteristics should be present on the front of the package. In contrast, labelling on infant formula and toddler milks has been shown to be unclear, inconsistent, and variable across brands and countries (Bridge 2020).
2) The United States
For example, in the United States, formulas can be marketed before they are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (US FDA 2006). However, all formulas marketed in the United States must meet federal nutrient requirements, and formula manufacturers must notify the FDA before marketing a new formula.
3) The European Union
The European Union has other criteria. Unlike the U.S., it does not allow the following (EU 2006):
- Detectable levels of pesticides
- Table sugar (sucrose) in regular formula
- Thickeners such as locust gum, guar gum, pectins, fructans (like inulin), and carrageenan
- Trans fats
- The use of bovine growth hormone in cows
- Genetically modified ingredients
Some European manufacturers go further and only use milk from biodynamic farms, which is a strict type of organic farming that uses sustainable practices.