New guidelines on formula milk advertising

The government has announced new restrictions on how companies advertise formula milk for babies older than six months.

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The guidelines have been drawn up in response to a new EU directive covering both the nutritional content of milk and how it is marketed.

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Claims such as “closest to breast milk” must be removed from packets, even though new guidelines on ingredients mean the milk could be nutritionally superior.

There was no need to subject all baby milks to a total advertising ban because “infant formula is not junk food”, said Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo as she announced the new measures.

“Some women cannot or choose not to breastfeed and it is important they have the information they need to make the right choice for their baby’s health,” she said.

However the new Food Standards Agency guidelines should ensure that baby milk is not described by manufacturers in any way which “undermines” breastfeeding, she added. “These new regulations will ensure that all types of formula are clearly labelled and advertised and that they meet the very latest nutritional standards for babies.”

The new legislation comes into effect at the start of next year, although discussion as to how exactly companies should change their practices will be up for discussion until February.

Roger Clarke, head of the Infant and Dietetic Foods Association, said the new guidelines looked to be a “pretty sensible, measured approach from the government, although industry will still have to look in detail at what is planned”.

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He added: “All the data suggests that advertising is not a factor when it comes to women’s decision to choose infant formula over breastfeeding. There are many other issues, from physical pain to achieving a balanced lifestyle.”

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