24 Apr 2019

The 2010 position statement from the Paediatric Group outlined the findings of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) 2003 report on phytoestrogens and health and described the evidence at the time. The recommendations made in 2010 are still relevant today.

Although a recent study has shown that infant soya formulas can support normal growth and development in full-term infants (Vandenplas et al 2014), neither the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) (Bhatia & Greer 2008) nor the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) (Agostoni et al 2006) have changed their position that there are very few indications for the use of soya formulas in infant nutrition.

COT has undertaken a review of soya phytoestrogens (COT 2013) and their conclusions are included in the most recent publication, ‘Feeding in the First Year of Life’ from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN 2018):

Soya - There is some uncertainty about the safety of soya-based formula and there is no scientific basis for a change in the current government advice: there is neither substantive medical need for, nor health benefit arising from the use of soya-based infant formula and it should only be used in exceptional circumstances to ensure adequate nutrition.

Infant formula (based on either cows’ or goats’ milk) is the only suitable alternative to breast milk for babies who are under 12 months old. The use of soya-based formula should only be on medical advice and the possible health effects of soya-based formula should be kept under review.

A useful review article on phytoestrogens and soya infant formulas (Testa et al 2018) is recommended reading.

Download the full 2010 statement at the link to the left.