New analytical methods for micronutrient testing of infant formula

Eight new International Standards specifying methods for testing vitamins and other micronutrients in infant formula will help ensure their nutrient content conforms to their declaration.

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Por Sandrine Tranchard
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Infant formulas need to provide essential nutrients (including vitamins and minerals) for the adequate growth and development of babies and young children. This is why the nutritional quality of infant formula is laid down in international standards1 (Codex Alimentarius2) and national regulations.

To verify that infant formulas deliver all the necessary nutrients, accurate analytical test methods are required. The development of such test methods is ever evolving, but to date not many methods for micronutrients have been internationally harmonized. This lack of harmonization can cause problems in international trade due to different methods being used by different parties, producing different results.

Although some methods are listed in the Codex-recommended Methods of Analysis and Sampling and referenced in the Codex Standard for Infant Formula and Formulas for Special Medical Purposes Intended for Infants, many are outdated, not validated for infant formula specifically, or not globally harmonized.

The SPIFAN project (Stakeholder Panel on Infant Formula and Adult Nutritionals), which is managed by AOAC INTERNATIONAL in cooperation with ISO and the International Dairy Federation (IDF), is addressing these issues. As part of this project, the publication of globally harmonized ISO standards is underway to help manufacturers of infant formula and official control laboratories check compliance with regulations.

This collaboration has resulted in the first set of eight methods for testing the following nutrients in infant formula: vitamins A and E, vitamin B12, inositol, iodine, fatty acid profile, nucleotides, pantothenic acid, and ultra-trace minerals (i.e. chromium, molybdenum, selenium).

The new ISO International Standards will be proposed to Codex Alimentarius as so-called Type II methods (i.e. reference methods) to enable them to be utilized for the purposes of dispute resolution internationally. This means that they will become the reference methods for these nutrients in infant formulas worldwide.

This, in turn, will result in more accurate determination of the nutritional quality of infant formula as well as fewer trade disputes caused by differences in analytical results. In addition, these methods will provide internationally validated anchor points to calibrate routine methods for manufacturing purposes. Hence, these new analytical standards are poised to become critical enablers, ensuring that infant formulas deliver adequate nutrition to children.

As part of the cooperation between AOAC SPIFAN, ISO and IDF, a further 10 to 15 projects are underway to provide stakeholders all over the world with up-to-date and globally harmonized methods on other relevant nutrients in infant formula and adult nutritionals.


1. Codex standard for infant formula and formulas for special medical purposes intended for infants (CODEX STAN 72 – 1981, revision 2007)

2. Codex: The Codex Alimentarius or "Food Code" was established by FAO and the World Health Organization in 1963 to develop harmonized international food standards that protect consumer health and promote fair practices in the food trade.

Sandrine Tranchard
Sandrine Tranchard

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