Industry postpones infant nutrition rules

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Milk, Nutrition

A high court judge has suspended the implementation of new rules on
infant nutrition in the UK after a legal challenge was made by the
Infant and Dietetic Foods Association (IDFA).

IDFA applied for a judicial review claiming the date by which baby milk companies need to comply with the labelling requirements in the new legislation should not be for another two years. The original date which industry had to comply by was Friday, January 11, when the law came into force. The association said it called for the judicial review a few days before the law came into effect last week, because it claimed the Food Standards Agency (FSA) only told them about the deadline at the end of December. The court has ordered that the case should be heard before the end of February but no date has yet been set, the FSA said. FSA, which has been working on finalising the regulations covering advertisement and health claims on formula for a number of years, said it was "surprised​" by IDFA's actions. The trade group, whose members include Nutricia, SMA, Heinz Farley and Nestle, said there has not been enough consultation and the changes have been implemented incorrectly. Director general, Roger Clarke, said: "No one is questioning the safety of the formula products on sale in the UK. But the Government has nevertheless decided on a sudden change in the introduction of new regulations on labeling, bringing forward enforcement of non-compliance by two years, without thought for whether those regulations can actually be implemented on the rushed timetable that they propose."​ The association says FSA and the Department of Health are being unlawful in making the regulations apply from last Friday. It argues that the EU directive sets out a compliance date of the end of 2009. Value ​ The market for formula milk is worth some €597m and formula manufacturers have been adding extra nutritional benefits like omega-3 and probiotics to make the product closer to the nutrient profile of breast milk. 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. FSA says the rules will help parents and carers to clearly tell the difference between infant formula, which can be used for the first six months, and follow-on formula, which is only to be used after six months. 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. Gill Fine, director of consumer choice and dietary health at the FSA, said: "We are extremely surprised that companies to whom we have been talking about these regulations for almost three years should decide at the last minute to apply for a judicial review."Regulations​ The regulations were published in November by FSA. They would also mean only a small number of health and nutrition claims will be permitted on packaging for formula milk. Claims to be allowed for products are: Lactose only, lactose free, added long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCP), reduced risk of allergy to milk proteins and nutrition linked to nucleotides, taurine and oligosaccharides. Restrictions on marketing and promotion will outlaw targeting formula to new parents. Promotional material for infant formulas will not be able to feature text or images relating to pregnancy, including pictures of children under six months of age or images inciting a comparison to breast milk. The subject has caused controversy, as pressure groups supporting breast feeding have said the rules are not strong enough and government has bowed to industry pressure. Baby Milk Action are among the protesters who say advertisements for formula are putting mothers off breastfeeding, and have called for a complete ban.

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