COMPLAINT UPHELD: What's the best milk after Lisa's? advertisements for SMA brand
Update 19 September 2012: The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that SMA is NOT the best milk after Kate's and warned Pfizer/Wyeth not to repeat this advertising campaign - see Baby Milk Action press release.
Update 30 March 2012: The Advertising Standards Authority is investigating the advertising under the advertising code, but will not consider whether the advertisments break the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations or the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (see below). This is despite the fact the ASA claims its role is to ensure that advertising is "Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful".
Update 4 April 2012: At least one hospital has taken action to have the SMA advertising removed from the hospedia service, which has been showing them for 6 months it has emerged (see below).
Wyeth has been advertising its SMA brand of formula with a back cover advertisement in The Guardian (3 March 2012) and front and back advertisements in the Metro (London, 6 March 2012). These are headlined: "What the best milk after Lisa's" or "What's the best milk after Emma's". Advertisements are also appearing outdoors, such as at bus shelters (London, 9 March 2012), and even as screensavers on the media players by hospital beds (23 March 2012).
The packshot shown is for SMA follow-on milk for use from 6+ months. This product is a breastmilk substitute and comes within the scope (Article 2) of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
Article 5.1 of the Code is clear: "There should be no advertising or other form of promotion to the general public of products within the scope of this Code."
The packshot includes a baby picture, health claims and a stylised M in the SMA logo that is a cross between a heart and a mother holding her child in the breastfeeding position. These are idealising and encourage use of the formula instead of breastfeeding.
Article 9.1 of the Code states: "Labels should be designed to provide the necessary information about the appropriate use of the product, and so as not to discourage breastfeeding."
The advertisement encourages people to visit a company website, which promotes the full range of formula, making this a de facto infant formula advertisement (see below), which is prohibited under the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 2007. The law states:
"21.—(1) No person shall advertise infant formula."
The exceptions in the law do not apply to adveritising to the general public. The Guidance Notes that accompany the Regulations state:
"51. the specific terms ‘infant formula’ and ‘follow-on formula’ should be clearly featured on the packaging, in a font size no smaller than the brand name."
Wyeth ignores this provision, making the SMA brand name dominate the label and the advertising, being in font approximately five times larger than the "follow-on formula" text. As can be seen from the images of the advertising below, it is the SMA logo which dominates, promoting the full range of products, including the infant formula.
Seeking direct and indirect contact with pregnant women and mothers as infants and young children as the link to the site does is prohibited by Article 5.5 of the International Code, which states: "Marketing personnel, in their business capacity, should not seek direct or indirect contact of any kind with pregnant women or with mothers of infants and young children."
The text of the advertisement states:
Lisa breastfed here daughter because she knew it would give her the best start in life. When she finished, she was determined to find the best option for her baby. She chose SMA Follow-on Milk because it benefits from over 90 years of research into breastmilk. For Lisa, the best milk after hers is SMA Follow-on Milk.
After drawing equivalence to breastfeeding, an IMPORTANT NOTICE then confusingly states the formula "is not intended to replace breastfeeding".
The advertisements undermine World Health Organisation and Department of Health advice on breastfeeding, which recommend breastfeeding into the second year of life and beyond, by implying that mothers finish breastfeeding at 6 months and that SMA formula is the "best option for her baby". This is untrue as continued breastfeeding is the best option.
The World Health Assembly has also stated as long ago as 1986 (WHA Resolution 39.28) that, "the practice being introduced in some countries of providing infants with specially formulated milks (so-called "follow-up milks") is not necessary." It is, therefore, untrue for Wyeth to suggest that SMA follow-on formula is the "best option" for babies.
In addition, as all formulas have to contain the ingredients specified in legislation and there is no proven benefit from optional ingredients, it is misleading to suggest that SMA brand formulas are the better than competing brands.
BFLG has registered complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority and contacted Trading Standards and the company.
Update 12 March 2012: Pfizer, owner of Wyeth, which own SMA Nutrition, has responded as follows:
SMA Nutrition is committed to supporting mums through their parenting journey by educating and helping them make an informed choice regarding their infants' nutrition. The SMA Follow-on Milk advertising campaign aims to encourage mums to reappraise SMA Follow-on Milk as a choice for their infants from six months of age as part of a weaning diet. The UK regulations allow advertising of Follow-on Milk to the general public. As a leading infant nutrition company we understand - and always seek to abide by - all the regulations that govern the sale of infant formula and follow-on formula.
Update 30 March 2012: The Advertising Standards Authority has informed Baby Milk Action:
Dear Mr Brady
SMA - Follow on milk
Thank you for taking the time to contact us.
As you know we are currently considering your complaint and we will reply with further information in due course. However please be aware that we will only consider their complaints about the ads under the CAP Code. We will not be considering whether the ad breaches the Infant Formula and Follow-On Formula Regulations 2007, European Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on Nutrition and Health Claims made on Foods, the International Code on Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes, Department of Health or WHO guidance. If they would like their complaints to be considered under those rules or legislation, they should contact the bodies which administer those rules or legislation directly. The ASA is able to consider complaints about ads under the rules set out in the CAP Code only.
Legal, decent, honest and truthful
Update 4 April 2012: We have received a report from a hospital:
I am now aware that SMA have been advertising on our Hospital TV’s for the past 6 months
It consists of a screensaver and banner adverts !
We have had the screensaver removed which showed information about breastfeeding support via their advice line, and hospedia are working on removing the banner adverts.
We encourage other hospitals to check their systems and ensure that no promotion from baby food companies is allowed, including advertising and promotion of websites and carelines.
The advertising campaign directs people to the SMA brand site where the full range of formulas is promoted
Wyeth advertisement for SMA brand in The Metro 6 March 2012
Wyeth advertisement for SMA brand, Balham High Street, London, SW12, 5 March 2012.
Wyeth advertisement for SMA brand, Histon Road, Cambridge, 11 March 2012.
The Wyeth advertising campaign has also been reported as the default page on the media players by hospital beds