Ocado promotes feeding equipment with price reductions and health claims

Update 12 February 2013: Ocado has responded, indicating it will continue with promotions such as that documented here that violate the International Code and Resolutions - text below. Support the Baby Feeding Law Group in its campaigns for the government to act to enforce the international minimum marketing standards on companies such as Ocado which refuse to meet their obligations.

Violation: On 25 January 2013 a report was received about a promotion for a ‘half price’ Philips Avent Newborn Starter Set seen on the ocado.com website (left).  The set includes four bottles, a bottle brush and a ‘soother’, and is described for use from 0 months. It was still featured in the "Offers" section of the site on 1 February.
 
Under the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 it is forbidden to promote not only breastmilk substitutes, but also products which may undermine breastfeeding, such as bottles and teats.
 
Article 2. Scope of the Code
 
The Code applies to the marketing, and practices related thereto, of the following products: breastmilk substitutes, including infant formula; other milk products, foods and beverages, including bottle-fed complementary foods, when marketed or otherwise represented to be suitable, with or without modification, for use as a partial or total replacement of breast-milk; feeding bottles and teats. It also applies to their quality and availability, and to information concerning their use.
 
Therefore a promotion for feeding bottles directed at the general public is not permitted under the Code and Resolutions. The fact that the feeding equipment shown in this particular promotion has a price reduction to induce sales further violates the Code.
 
In the UK there is a Law which details how infant formula and follow-on formulas can be marketed (Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations, 2007 - see "The Law" section) but it is narrow in its scope and does not include other breastmilk substitutes or feeding equipment.
 
Items such as bottles are included within the scope of the International Code, as, if marketed inappropriately they may undermine breastfeeding. For example, a pregnant mother, or mother of a newborn, may see this advert and think that: firstly she is getting value for money if she bottle feeds as the equipment is half-price. Secondly, if she follows the link to the product page, she may be influenced by the number and range of ‘health’ claims within just this one advert. If she used this product it is claimed her baby would:
 
Be more settled, particularly at night
Have less colic
Feed like ‘natural breastfeeding {as} your baby controls the milk flow’
Benefit from the ‘soft, naturally shaped silicone teat’ which ‘supports breastfeeding’
 
And if that is not enough to convince the mother that using this equipment is the next best thing to breastfeeding then the final claim that ‘fussing’ (‘unsettled and irritable behaviour’) is ‘reduced at night’ may influence the mother to stop breastfeeding and bottle feed instead.
 
None of the above claims are adequately referenced.
 
Baby Milk Action has contacted Ocado and asked it to remove the promotion.
 
The UK Government has international obligations to implement the International Code and Resolutions, recognised by EU Directives on formula marketing. The International Code and Resolutions are intended to be minimum standards and implemented in their entirety.   The Baby Feeding Law Group continues to call on the UK Government to implement the Code and Resolutions in UK law.
 
Ocado's response on 12 February 2013:
 
Dear Mr Brady,
 
Thanks for getting in touch. We have company guidelines in place to ensure that we don't breach either The Infant and Follow On Formula Regulations or the Committee of Advertising Practice Codes. 
 
Our legal team has looked into the issue you raised thoroughly. We're satisfied that the way we're displaying the product conforms to all legal and regulatory standards, and therefore will not be amending this on our website.
 
Thanks again,
 
Ocado Customer Service Team
 
Baby Milk Action has reminded Ocado of its responsibilities under the Code. Article 11.3 states:
 
11.3 Independently of any other measures taken for implementation of this Code, manufacturers and distributors of products within the scope of this Code should regard themselves as responsible for monitoring their marketing practices according to the principles and aim of this Code, and for taking steps to ensure that their conduct at every level conforms to them.