Infant formula adverts should be banned, coalition says

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Infant formula, Breastfeeding

Mothers need to be allowed to make an informed choice about breast
feeding, say three UK charities who are calling for a blanket ban
on infant formula milk advertisement.

Unicef, National Childbirth Trust (NCT) and Save the Children have released a report outlining why current guidelines are not strict enough and more should be done to limit pressure on mothers from infant milk companies. Their verdict comes as the Food Standards Agency is consulting on proposed changes to UK legislation from the EU, which looks at regulating infant milk advertisements across the bloc. The report, A weak formula for legislation: how loopholes in the law are putting babies at risk,​ released today, says the current UK guidelines are not working because infant formula firms have become "cleverer and more aggressive"​ and are taking advantage of two "loopholes​" to flout legislation. Increasingly companies are looking at how they can beast replicate the healthy profile of breast milk with the use of ingredients. Germany's Hipp GmbH & Co Vertrieb KG, for example, has used a probiotic bacteria from BioGaia, which is isolated from human milk, to use in certain baby food products marketed in Europe. Others are adding omega-3 fatty acids, and/or prebiotics. Infant formula companies say that the aim is to give babies that are not, for whatever reason, breastfed, the best nutrition at the start of their lives. The charities say: "The law contains loopholes that allow the promotion of infant formula via the advertisement of so-called 'follow-on milks' (a product invented to evade the restrictions), and permit manufacturers to push other products and materials that share the same brand name and logo. "There is more advertising now than before the law came in - making it harder than ever for parents to make an informed choice.​" Companies are currently not allowed to advertise formula milk for babies under six months in the UK. A total ban would allow parents to make an informed choice about whether to breast feed their baby an NCT spokesperson told, free from advertisements which might persuade them to use formula milk The report said: "Breastfeeding is the healthiest and cheapest way to feed a baby, yet the UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe. The promotion of artificial feeding undermines breastfeeding as the healthiest way of feeding a baby."​ The three charities also say proposed EU changes to infant formula rules do not go far enough and are calling for a total ban to be included. This report is not the first time the current rules and proposed changes have come under attack. Baby Milk Action has said the draft EU law has "let down mothers and infants​." The Food Standards Agency is gathering views on the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula (England) Regulations 2007 with a view to implement it by the end of the year. The new regulations cover a broad range of points hinged around making sure the nutritional value for any formula satisfies the nutritional requirements of the infant. It also hopes to make sure labelling and advertising is in line with the principles laid out in the European code, Commission Directive 2006/141/EC on infant formula and follow-on formula and amending Directive 1999/21/EC. The infant nutrition market is becoming more lucrative in the UK, worth an estimated £329 million in 2005. If approved the new regulations will revoke and replace the existing Infant Formula and Follow on Formula Regulations 1995.

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