Overcoming Challenges with Food Age Recommendations for our Youngest Consumers

Is Your Product Safe for The Intended Consumer?

19 May 2020

These days, supermarket shelves are stocked full of snack products intended to be consumed by children of various ages – as young as infancy. In order to provide parents and caregivers with guidance regarding safe consumption, these items typically have either a specific age range or applicable developmental milestones listed on the packaging. Have you ever wondered how food companies determine who the intended consumer of the product should be?  

While certain packaging requirements exist to ensure that ingredients, nutritional information, and serving size are listed, there are limited regulations when it comes to the physical safety of food and how to provide an appropriate age recommendation. Therefore, it is up to the manufacturer to decide what the suitable age range should be for the product they are distributing. It is crucial that companies, especially those targeting infants and toddlers, provide appropriate guidance to ensure the safety of the child consuming the snack. If the age recommendation listed on the packaging does not align with the developmental and oral motor skills required to safely consume the product, the child could have a negative experience during consumption, including gagging or, even worse, choking.  

In an effort to help companies determine appropriate age recommendations, Intertek's team of food physical safety and child development specialists offer organoleptic reviews. This qualitative sensory evaluation involves Intertek's team of experts consuming the product and exploring the physical attributes, such as hardness, dissolution rate, size, shape, and lubricity. Once all of these factors are taken into consideration, Intertek can provide an expert opinion on the product's potential to cause an airway obstruction related incident.  

The organoleptic assessment also takes into consideration the applicable developmental milestones and oral motor patterns that would be necessary for safe consumption of the product. The abilities that are required to safely consume the food are then correlated to the age range where the skills are typically present, resulting in Intertek's age recommendation.  For example, a child in the 6-to-9-month-old age range who is just learning how to consume foods other than liquids is going to have a much different skill set than a child in the 18-to-24-month-old age range who has more experience with a variety of foods.  

With a solid understanding of a food product's physical attributes and the oral and developmental milestones required for safe consumption, companies can feel confident about the age recommendations on their packaging and the well-being of those consuming the product. To learn more about how Intertek Product Assurance can help, visit us at: https://www.intertek.com/product-assurance/safety/

Don't miss the opportunity to learn from the experts...

Intertek will be offering a complimentary Webinar, "Determining Suitable Age Recommendations for Food Products" on June 11, 2020 at 10am EDT, 2pm GMT, and 4pm CEST. Register here.

 

 

Lauren Lomanto,
Senior Project Manager, Product Assurance
Health, Environmental & Regulatory Services (HERS)

 

Today's expert blogger is Lauren Lomanto. Lauren is a Project Manager for Intertek's Product Assurance group. She has been with Intertek since 2011. In addition to assisting clients with their safety needs, Lauren also helps customers to understand the ways in which children will use and interact with products based on their developmental skills and abilities. In addition, she evaluates consumer products to identify applicable safety hazards and offer potential mitigation strategies. She holds a BA in Psychology from DePaul University and an MS in Child Development from the Erikson Institute.