Misleading promotion of Nestlé SMA toddler milk to members of ASDA Baby and Toddler Club

Click here to sign the petition on Change.org calling on ASDA and Nestlé to inform the customers they misled

ASDA emailThe Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published a ruling on 15 October 2014 (A14-263404) upholding complaints registered by Baby Milk Action on behalf of the BFLG monitoring project about a joint Nestlé and ASDA email promotion for SMA toddler milks (left).

The advertisements implied children might not receive the necessary amounts of nutrients such as iron and Vitamin D unless they consumed the fortified milks.

The ASA warned the companies not to repeat the advertisement and 'told them not to state or imply that health could be affected by not consuming a product, or to give rise to doubt the nutritional adequacy of a reference product.'

However, neither ASDA nor Nestlé are apologetic for being caught out misleading parents and Baby Milk Action has filed a case against internet advertisements from Nestlé for the same products that make similar claims. Mike Brady, Campaigns Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, who brought the complaints, said:

"Nestlé entered the UK market with the takeover of the SMA brand in December 2012 and we are seeing the aggressive marketing strategies it uses around the world being unleashed in the UK. This is just one example; other concerns include its promotion of infant formula to health workers.

"ASDA was extremely unhelpful when we raised this case with it directly, as with similar misleading promotions by Danone, Nestlé's leading competitor, which owns the Cow & Gate and Aptamil brands. We asked the ASDA media office to comment on the promotion in light of expert opinions that these milks are unnecessary, and even potentially harmful. ASDA dismissed our concerns by citing Nestlé's assurances about its toddler milk claims and refused to discuss the issue with us further. We were promised a response from ASDA's legal and compliance team, which did not contact us, despite repeated requests. I asked ASDA if it will now alert recipients of this email promotion that it misled them and apologise, but it is clear that this is a forlorn hope. 

ASDA's media spokesperson indicated that there would be no correction, telling Baby Milk Action only that ASDA would, "ensure the ruling is adhered to in future marketing." A petition on Change.org is calling on ASDA and Nestlé to inform the customers they misled - click here

In its statement to just-food.com, Nestlé simply reiterated the justifications for its claims that the ASA found unconvincing. This and the fact that a banner advertisement is appearing on the internet today for the same products with similar claims suggest Nestlé's statement saying it will comply with the ruling bears little weight. 

In 2012, the ASA upheld Baby Milk Action's complaints about a national advertising campaign that claimed SMA is the best formula in a ruling against its then owner, Pfizer Nutrition.

For expert assessment of toddler milks on the market, see the report by First Steps Nutrition, which states:

"Fortified milks are frequently high in sugar and are likely to contribute to higher energy intakes, which may contribute to chronic disease, and the voluntary fortification of foods and drinks needs to be questioned as there is increasing evidence that giving additional nutrients to those who do not need them may have adverse consequences."

Click here to sign the petition calling on ASDA and Nestlé to inform the customers they misled