BMA campaigns co-ordinator Mike Brady said the complaint was dismissed on a technicality although the adverts clearly breach guidance notes.
“The fact that the ASA has not upheld the complaint on a technicality shows the absurdity of the system. The adverts clearly infringe Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007),” said Brady of the laws that prevent all marketing of formulas designed for infants under 6-months.
“The ASA had previously acknowledged there was a problem with the ads and is now taking a view totally contrary to Department of Health guidance notes.”
Ruling raises questions
The BMA has been challenging claims on press adverts that suggest Aptamil with Pronutra+ has the same benefits as breast milk, although the main issue concerns the lack of reference to the product as a follow-on formula.
The 6-month marketing campaign involved four adverts that highlighted the product’s nutritional and health benefits, however only one advert mentioned the product was a follow-on formula, as opposed to an infant formula.
Three complainants, including BMA’s, suggested this was misleading and breached UK advertising regulations, although these have been rejected by the ASA.
“The ASA is using one advert [that refers to the product as a follow-on formula] as an excuse to exonerate the problems with the other three,” said Brady.
“This ruling raises questions about how regulations in this area are being applied by the ASA, Department of Health and local authorities.”
Health claims upheld
The ASA also disregarded complaints concerning the ambiguous nature of health claims, although it did suggest some fine-tuning was necessary.
It stated, “we considered the claims were likely to be interpreted to mean that Aptamil Pronutra+ Follow On milk contained some of the same substances as breast milk.”
Nevertheless, the authority upheld claims implying similarities between Aptamil with Pronutra+ and breast milk, saying statements were not misleading because they explained product development was ongoing and that further research was necessary into breast milk.
Pro-breastfeeding BMA now intends to pursue the matter through UK parliamentary channels, said Brady.
This is the second time in just over a week that Danone Nutricia has been probed by the ASA over questionable advertising claims, although in the previous case – involving claims about vitamin D in ‘Growing up milk’- the ruling was upheld.