The guidelines, which relates to infant formula products produced in Ireland, takes into account complex legislation that currently governs commercial communication of these products to health professionals.
The legislation deems all written, electronic and verbal communication to consumers and health professionals on infant formula must stop using most nutrition and health claims as an approach to promote and protect breastfeeding.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life,” the FSAI writes.
“After six months of age, infants should receive age-appropriate foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.
“The specialised nutrition industry strongly supports this WHO recommendation and believes that breast milk is the optimal source of nutrition as it contains the perfect balance of nutrients, hormones and antibodies.”
New EU food law
The recent EU food law that came into effect on 22 February 2020 further restricts advertising and marketing of infant formula (formula products suitable for infants age 0-12months).
Statements claiming benefits related to individual nutrients are also not allowed. So for example, infant formulations cannot be linked to breast milk, immune or gut health benefits (in either the presentation, labelling or advertising).
However, some limited exceptions apply to a small number of products until February 2021 as are statements on Docosahexanoic Acid(DHA) and lactose, which are still permitted on all infant formula.
The FSAI also say new scientific developments can be communicated to health professionals.
The new rules also extend restrictions on the use of claims and pictures of infants in the advertising and marketing of infant formula that aim to help manage feeding problems like reflux.
In the past, the legislation was less strict for this type of product. Claims and pictures of infants cannot be used now in advertising and marketing most infant formula products to consumers and health professionals, so the restrictions are tighter than before.
Along with the guidelines, the FSAI also makes available an assessment tool which allows industry to assess its compliance with current food law in this area.
The tool asks questions about the product’s use of nutrition and health claims, misleading information, required additional information, reference sources and images featuring infants amongst other criteria.
Irish formula sector
Ireland is home to some of the largest players in the infant nutrition sector that include Wyeth Nutrition, Abbott, Danone Nutricia and Kerry, all of whom contribute to over €4bn worth of exports in dairy products, ingredients and nutritional products per year.
According to the IrishExaminer, Ireland’s infant formula industry is worth €1.2bn per year. The country supplies 20% of the world’s infant formula and is the second biggest exporter to China.
In January last year, Nestlé announced its new global research centre in Ireland was to focus on developing innovations in milk-based maternal and infant nutrition products for the global market.
The Limerick-based €27m manufacturing facility marked the culmination of a three-year building project in which forty research staff were now employed at the research facility.