Toddler drinks, formulas, and milks: Labeling practices and policy implications

Jennifer Pomeranz, MJ Romo Palafox, JL Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Toddler drinks are a growing category of drinks marketed for young children 9–36 months old. Medical experts do not recommend them, and public health experts raise concerns about misleading labeling practices. In the U.S., the toddler drink category includes two types of products: transition formulas, marketed for infants and toddlers 9–24 months; and toddler milks, for children 12–36 months old. The objective of this study was to evaluate toddler drink labeling practices in light of U.S. food labeling policy and international labeling recommendations. In January 2017, we conducted legal research on U.S. food label laws and regulations; collected and evaluated toddler drink packages, including nutrition labels and claims; and compared toddler drink labels with the same brand's infant formula labels. We found that the U.S. has a regulatory structure for food labels and distinct policies for infant formula, but no laws specific to toddler drinks. Toddler drink labels utilized various terms and images to identify products and intended users; made multiple health and nutrition claims; and some stated there was scientific or expert support for the product. Compared to the same manufacturer's infant formula labels, most toddler drink labels utilized similar colors, branding, logos, and graphics. Toddler drink labels may confuse consumers about their nutrition and health benefits and the appropriateness of these products for young children. To support healthy toddler diets and well-informed decision-making by caregivers, the FDA can provide guidance or propose regulations clarifying permissible toddler drink labels and manufacturers should end inappropriate labeling practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-16
JournalPreventive Medicine
Early online dateJan 12 2018
StatePublished - Apr 2018


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