We’re biased towards European baby formulas (due to the fact that we sell European baby formula) but for good reason! In the US, the FDA has strict rules for what is allowed and is not allowed in baby formula. And yet for all the regulations that the FDA imposes on US formula manufacturers, corn syrup is allowed as the first ingredient in many formulas. In our minds, baby formula should consist mostly of milk, and yet there are brands in the US which contain corn syrup solids as the very first ingredient. Some US formulas are composed with more than 50% corn syrup solids. That is the main ingredient. Put another way, there is more corn syrup solids in these formulas than milk. And oftentimes there are multiple sweeteners in the same US formula. Some contain corn syrup solids, glucose syrup solids, brown rice syrup or corn maltodextrin, to name a few more sweeteners.
In Europe, no corn syrup is allowed. Cows and goats are fed organic, grass fed diets, and the main ingredient in formula is - drum roll - milk. There can be no detectable levels of pesticide residues in European formulas. Zero. Most US baby food wouldn’t be allowed to be sold in Europe as it either has pesticide residue, or contains other unwanted ingredients, such as corn syrup or sucrose. In addition there are minimum levels of lactose in European baby formulas. At least 30% of European baby formula carbohydrates must come from lactose. Lactose is present in breast milk, is a natural sweetener, and helps in the digestion of iron and zinc, two important minerals in baby growth and development. So, once again, European regulations (and the companies that sell European formula) are trying to provide a product that most closely resembles breast milk. Simple, easy to digest, and healthy.
US formula manufacturers treat all sugars as equal. Studies have shown that early childhood exposure to sugary foods drives future food preferences and can lead to obesity and diabetes. Also, it seems that HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) in US baby formula bypasses the biochemical control signaling satiation, leading babies to drink formula well past the point they would naturally be filled with either breast milk or a cleaner formula. Artificially sweetened baby formula forms future dietary habits. Not only that, but these artificial ingredients often lead to babies having constipation and/or diarrhea, as well as spikes in blood sugar that lead to behavioral issues such as trouble sleeping and general fussiness that would never occur given a cleaner formula.
It’s important to note what European baby formula is not. It is not a miracle cure-all. Babies are amazing, they come out of the womb with no real functioning digestive system (having gotten all of his/her nutrition through the placenta. Their digestive system develops in their first months. It takes time to grow a healthy gastrointestinal tract, as well as a larger stomach and stronger oesophageal valve. There will be spit up, there will be diarrhea, there will be gas, regardless of if you are feeding your baby US formula, European formula, or even breast milk. However, as European formula is overall much cleaner, higher regulated than US formula, these problems will occur much less often, and the overall nutritional value of European formula, given that it is formulated using biodynamic, Demeter farmed cow milk with no pesticides used, is simply much higher.