IBFAN comments on the review of EU Baby food legislation

See the Press release about the European Parliament's Environment,  Public Health and Food Safety  Committee (ENVI) debate on 20th December.

IBFAN Comments 

PDF of  commentary on the Commission's proposals 


Upcoming dates for your diary where the PARNUTs revision will be discussed. Please share our proposals with your contacts:  

31st January: The next Working Group meeting of EU Member States 

29th February: Meeting of the ENVI Committee

17th April: Plenary Vote on the ENVI proposals in Strasbourg.



Several  of our concerns have been addressed in the ENVI  report on the EU Commission's  proposals to revise the legislation on baby and specialised foods. The report, drawn up by the Rapporteur, Frederique Ries, includes welcome references to safety, prohibition of pesticides, a regularly updated list of ingredients,  and calls for the Precautionary Principle to be used for both the internal market and exports.  

It also includes this  overarching paragraph: (29b) This Regulation cannot be fully effective as regards protection of the most vulnerable consumers and, a fortiori, its nutritional benefits, unless it is backed up by a robust and independent assessment system (composition, labelling, reformulation) before and after the marketing of food products, responsibility for which lies principally with the European Food Safety Authority, in cooperation with the competent national authorities.   


In the debate on 20th December several MEPs called for further strengthening.  


IBFAN comments on the Commission's proposals to revise  PARNUTs Directive  on specialised foods

• The main proposal to revise and limit the scope of PARNUTs is welcome.

• Growing up milks and Toddler Milks - like follow-on milks - are unnecessary products, which encourage bad eating habits in children and should ideally not be on the market.  However if its impossible to ban their sale,  they should never be referred to specifically in any legal text. They could perhaps be caught by these regulations if the safeguards cover all foods for infants and young children. If necessary the  generic term 'milks for older babies' could be used. (see note 1-2)   

•  There should be pre-authorisation of all novel and existing ingredients for all foods for infants and young children, especially pre-term formulas, formulas for special purposes and normal formulas. The pre-authorisation should include a rigorous evaluation for safety and efficacy, involving independent systematic reviews of the totality of research. The  ENVI report includes a provision saying that: Vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other substances may be added to food referred to in Article 1(1), provided that such substances meet the following conditions..... (Note 3)    This should be deleted because it  leaves  the door  open for optional ingredients and promotional claims.  

As stated by the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) 2007:

“We find the case for labelling infant formula or follow on formula with health or nutrition claims entirely unsupportable. If an ingredient is unequivocally beneficial as demonstrated by independent review of scientific data it would be unethical to withhold it for commercial reasons. Rather it should be made a required ingredient of infant formula in order to reduce existing risks associated with artificial feeding.” 


• Our recommendations  to EFSA for improving  the level of science are here: http://info.babymilkaction.org/node/502  

• All products should  be labelled and presented in such a way as to avoid any risk of confusion between infant formulae, pre-term /specialised formulas  and formulas for older babies. 

• As mentioned in the Report, the  Precautionary Principle must be used as an overarching  safeguard when dealing with products targetting vulnerable groups.

• Health and nutrition claims should not permitted for any foods for infants or young children. (for comments see our briefing  http://info.babymilkaction.org/pressrelease/pressrelease06apr11

• Safeguards must be included to prevent the promotion of 'formulas for mothers'  These products are widely promoted in Asia, often sharing the same brand name as breastmilk substitutes and promoting these products by default. They are unnecessary, expensive, and undermine confidence in wholesome family foods. 

• Formulas for special medical purposes, pre-term babies and  for older babies must fall under the same marketing restrictions as infant formulas, and be in line with the recommendations of the World Health assembly. Pre-term and sick babies are even more vulnerable and need greater protection not less.    

• There must be more transparency of the procedures, in relation to minutes, observer access etc etc, with more power, oversight and right of veto given to Parliament. 


Exports:  The safeguards contains in the  COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 92/52/EEC must be retained and strengthened to:


The EU as a major exporting region must require all exports of foods for infants and young children to be  in the appropriate language and without promotional images and text.  Many countries do NOT have specific legislation to take care of this. For example, Indonesia has no law requiring imports to be in the correct language, apart from requiring imports to carry a sticker with nutrition information.  Laos  apparently allows  imports to be in the exporters language.   Mozambique  requires imports to be in Portuguese, the official language, however, like many countries in this region it struggles to ensure that the imports comply.  Thailand has a law requiring all imports to be in the correct language, but its baby food marketing law is weak so other aspects of the Export Direct may not be covered.  


It is essential that the EU as a major exporting region  requires that health, nutrition and promotional claims are not permitted.   Health and nutrition claims on an ever increasing number of products are used wherever they are not  specifically banned.  Claims are distorting parents perceptions about the nutritional value of products, tricking parents into believing that they have to use this or that fortified milk or food if they want a clever, healthy child.  The DHA claim that MEPs debated in March 2011 is not even substantiated for  the EU context. Even if EU procedures are improved as we propose (http://info.babymilkaction.org/node/502 ) risks assessments would not address global settings.  Claims should never be permitted on exports unless the importing countries specifically authorise them.  This would be unlikely if strict independent  risk assessment procedures are followed..


Unless the recommended changes are made it export regulations must ensure that the Regulation:

• covers all foods for infants and young children(removing the reference to 'healthy infants' )

• does not permit health and nutrition claims - the  EU must not lower global standards.   (See Note 4 for text of  Codex Guidelines for the use of Nutrition and Health claims (CAC/GL 23-1997, Rev. 1-20041) and  WHA Res 63.23 ) 

• specifies that products are labelled and presented in such a way as to avoid any risk of confusion between infant formulae, specialised formulas  and  formulas for older babies.  

• specifies that complementary foods (baby foods)  for infants and young children do not share the same brand names as formula milks.

• specifies that the age of introduction of complementary foods is 6 months in line with World Health assembly Recommendation and policies over 70 countries.  

• incorporate the provisions of COUNCIL RESOLUTION of 18 June 1992 on the marketing of breast-milk substitutes in third countries by Community-based manufacturers (92/C 172/01) which encourages:  "compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes when these products are placed on sale in export markets, in so far as this does not conflict with the provisions in force in the countries concerned" and offers EU "effective support to competent authorities to apply the International Code in their territory."

• ensures that all references to the International Code include the subsequent relevant WHA Resolutions.



Diary Notes:

MEPs will submit comments and suggestions for improvements to the Report  so please do share the ideas listed below. The deadline for ENVI amendments is 18 January with a vote in Committee on 29 February. The issue is scheduled for a vote in plenary on 17 April. The Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee(IMCO)  will also submit comments. The deadline for IMCO amendments is 12th January.

The link to the recording of the ENVI debate is here:



the link to the IMCO debate is here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/ep-live/en/committees/video?event=20111220-1500-COMMITTEE-IMCO&vodtype=Live


Note 1


There is no proven medical or nutritional need for formulas to be marketed especially for older babies. After the age of 1 year, the milk recommended as part of a diet to ensure children grow and develop well is full fat cows milk, and there is no need for modified cows milk at this stage as the nutritional emphasis should be on food.  


The German Consumer Association survey found that  these miks (called Kindermilch) were up to four times more expensive than normal milk, costing parents up to 245 euros more each year and commonly had twice as much sugar as normal milk. http://www.vzhh.de/ernaehrung/129727/kostenfalle-kindermilch.asp

The Infant Formula Directive already permits a wide compositional range of nutrients that meet the requirement for formulas for older infants and young children and there is nothing to stop parents continuing to feed standard infant formulas throughout the first and second year if that is their choice. 

Heavily fortified modified milks for children over the age of 1 year are generally not required, and there is no evidence that adding additional nutrients as supplements to diets is advantageous for children, and some evidence emerging that high intakes of iron in particualr are potentially harmful.

See comments to Codex here: http://info.babymilkaction.org/sites/info.babymilkaction.org/files/IBFAN...

Iron-Fortified vs Low-Iron Infant Formula Developmental Outcome at 10 Years

 Betsy Lozoff, MD; Marcela Castillo, PhD; Katy M. Clark, MA; Julia B. Smith, EdD Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. Published online November 7, 2011. This study from Chile  indicates that infants with high iron levels at 6 months, who were fed iron-fortified formulas had IQ levels 10 points lower at the age of 10 years than infants who had low-iron levels 


Note 2 The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). 16.08.2011 formulas for babies over 1 year. " According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), toddler milk does not, however, offer any advantage compared to reduced fat cow milk, as recommended by nutritional scientists for infants. "From a nutritional and physiological point of view these special toddler milks are not  necessary", says BfR President Professor Dr. Andreas Hensel. Enriched vitamins and minerals in those products rather result in an uncontrolled increase in the supply of some nutrients whereas other vitamins and minerals are included in lower amounts than in cow milk. Furthermore, it is currently not sufficiently proven in scientific terms that a reduced protein supply in early childhood reduces the risk of obesity and adiposity during the later childhood. The fat content of toddler milk is more or less comparable to the content of whole milk and hence higher than the content in reduced fat milk.”




Note 3   The Codex Guidelines for the use of Nutrition and Health claims (CAC/GL 23-1997, Rev. 1-20041) states in  Para 1.4 that:  Nutrition and health claims shall not be permitted for foods for infants and young children except where specifically provided for in relevant Codex standards or national legislation.

WHA 2010 Resolution 63.23  calls on Member States (4) to end inappropriate promotion of food for infants and young children and to ensure that nutrition and health claims shall not be permitted for foods for infants and young children, except where specifically provided for, in relevant Codex Alimentarius standards or national legislation;


 PRETERM FORMULAS  : WHO recommends that low-birth-weight (LBW) infants, including those with very low birth weight (VLBW), should be fed mother's own milk. If these infants cannot be fed mother's own milk, they should be fed donor human milk (in settings where safe and affordable milk banking facilities are available or can be set up) or standard infant formula. Very-low-birth-weight infants who cannot be fed mother's own milk or donor human milk should be given preterm infant formula if they fail to gain weight despite adequate feeding with standard infant formula. http://www.who.int/elena/titles/supplementary_feeding/en/index.html#  So in terms of legislation, pre-term babies is in any case covered by default in the 3 categories, but there would be no harm having a special category for formulas for very tiny babies. 

"Formulas for special nutrition' There is no need  for a special category for "formulas for special nutrition' – which would could lead to confusion  circumvention of advertising and labeling restrictions. Formulas such as Cow&Gate Comfort –marketed for the “dietary management of colic and constipation’ don't even carry the warning or statements affirming the superiority of breastfeeding.