Infant nutrition guidelines should be tougher, group says

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Infant nutrition, Baby milk action, Breastfeeding, Milk, Breast milk

Lobbyists have submitted a dossier highlighting a series of flaws
in proposed industry guidelines covering the advertisement of
infant food.

The paperwork from Baby Milk Action (BMA) was submitted to the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) in response to a consultation on an industry guideline on how to comply with new European law. The guidelines are for Commission Directive 2006/141/EC on infant formula and follow-on formula, which lists strict criteria on infant nutrition. They are intended to help industry comply with the European law and for Trading Standard Officers in detecting whether a breach has been made. Controversy has surrounded the subject of infant nutrition. BMA has said companies are promoting baby milk substitutes over breast milk, while in turn industry has maintained it has done nothing wrong. 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. Guidance confusion ​ In its submission, BMA said the guidance needs to be as "strong as possible to close the loopholes in the previous regulatory system." ​It argues that advertising and all other promotion of breastmilk substitutes are prohibited, but companies are breaching this around the world and so far there has only been one prosecution - that of Wyeth in 2003 for an advert for the SMA brand. The group also said that even the amount of health claims being used on infant products has exceeded the permitted number of six without repercussions for the industry. "Trading Standards officers have not taken action against these as it seems they do not feel confident under the current guidelines,"​ the group said. It said companies are still using unnecessary images on their products, such as cuddly teddy bears, which are not removed because of "confusion"​ over the current guidelines. The closing date for consultation passed on Wednesday and the FSA told that it was expected to publish a list of responses by next month. High Court action ​ The legislation was due to come into force from last month, but has now been postponed following an outcry from the Infant and Dietetic Foods Association (IDFA). IDFA, whose members include Nutricia, SMA, Heinz Farley and Nestle, called for a judicial review over the implementation of the rule, claiming it was not given enough notification of when the law would become binding. It believes the labelling rules should not come into effect until the end of 2009. The trade group said there has not been enough consultation and the changes have been implemented incorrectly. New rules ​ 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. Under the directive any information about infant feeding will not be able to counter the promotion of breastfeeding. For example, pictures or words on packets which "idealise" the use of the product will not be allowed. Rules about making sure no harmful materials, including pesticides, are included in milk substitutes are also included. If approved the new regulations will replace the existing Infant Formula and Follow on Formula Regulations 1995.

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