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J AOAC Int. 2016 Jan-Feb;99(1):7-11. doi: 10.5740/jaoacint.15-0244. Epub 2016 Feb 5.

The History of Infant Formula: Quality, Safety, and Standard Methods.

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Abbott Nutrition, 3300 Stelzer Rd, Building RP4-2, Columbus, OH 43219-3034, USA.


Food-related laws and regulations have existed since ancient times. Egyptian scrolls prescribed the labeling needed for certain foods. In ancient Athens, beer and wines were inspected for purity and soundness, and the Romans had a well-organized state food control system to protect consumers from fraud or bad produce. In Europe during the Middle Ages, individual countries passed laws concerning the quality and safety of eggs, sausages, cheese, beer, wine, and bread; some of these laws still exist today. But more modern dietary guidelines and food regulations have their origins in the latter half of the 19th century when the first general food laws were adopted and basic food control systems were implemented to monitor compliance. Around this time, science and food chemistry began to provide the tools to determine "purity" of food based primarily on chemical composition and to determine whether it had been adulterated in any way. Since the key chemical components of mammalian milk were first understood, infant formulas have steadily advanced in complexity as manufacturers attempt to close the compositional gap with human breast milk. To verify these compositional innovations and ensure product quality and safety, infant formula has become one of the most regulated foods in the world. The present paper examines the historical development of nutritional alternatives to breastfeeding, focusing on efforts undertaken to ensure the quality and safety from antiquity to present day. The impact of commercial infant formulas on global regulations is addressed, along with the resulting need for harmonized, fit-for-purpose, voluntary consensus standard methods.

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