New report shows companies push baby milk in violation of marketing rules in the UK

BFLG Press release 27 June 2013

Report coverThe Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG) has released a new reporting exposing some of the strategies used by baby milk companies to promote their products to health workers and the public. These methods violate the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly as well as narrower UK measures. Click here to download. Click here to purchase printed copies.
The introduction to the report, which was produced by Baby Milk Action on behalf of BFLG, explains the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child stated in 2008 that implementation of baby food marketing standards in the UK ‘continues to be inadequate and that aggressive promotion of breastmilk substitutes remains common.’
Mothers have a right to accurate, independent information on infant feeding, however they feed their children. This is undermined by company promotion - and the millions of pounds companies spend on marketing goes onto the price of formula. Meanwhile the NHS picks up the bill to treat the greater rates of illness amongst babies fed on formula (see reference in the report for details).
The UK is classified by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) in category three for implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly, indicating there are few provisions in law (see the box in the report for details).
Even the marketing requirements that are in place are not working well. An Independent Review Panel (IRP) commissioned by the Government reported in March 2010 about concerns with the national measures and suggested there need to be ‘steps taken to address these.’ The IRP report records that LACORS, the umbrella body for Trading Standards, stated: ‘One of the major problems for enforcement officers is the use of advertising and promotional material which blurs the distinction between follow-on formula and infant formula.’
Shortly after the IRP report, LACORS (now known as the Local Government Association) wound up the working group of enforcement officers responsible for regulating baby food companies, citing cutbacks. Complaint handling has now been contracted out to the Citizens Advice Bureau; even though this has forwarded numerous complaints to Trading Standards, it is unusual to receive a response from enforcement officers.
Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, who coordinated the monitoring project, said:
"Companies invest heavily in courting health workers by inviting them to events and offering sponsorship, and target pregnant women and parents with baby clubs and free gifts. This coordinated marketing exercise is paid for by a premium on the price of formula, prompting over a thousand people to sign our 'No promotion, Cheaper formula' petition. Health workers, parents and carers have a right to accurate, independent information and we call on policy makers and enforcement authorities to do all in their power to put a stop to the blatant and widespread violation of marketing standards by the baby food companies."
For further information contact Mike Brady on 07986 736179