Advertising of infant formula to parents will be banned under new rules announced yesterday.
Powdered milk for babies aged under six months – known as infant formula – will only be advertised in trade to trade magazines and scientific journals.
Television and print adverts for follow-on formula aimed at infants over six months will be tightened up but not banned, the Department of Health said.
Infant formula advertising is already heavily restricted but is currently permitted in leaflets given out by the health service.
That loophole will be closed when an EU directive on infant formula comes into force in the UK in January.
Advertising of liquid follow-on formula for babies over six months will be tightened up to ensure parents do not confuse the product with infant formula.
Labelling rules tighter
Firms will be banned from making their brand the focus of follow-on formula adverts and from including pictures or text comparing the products to breast-milk.
The adverts must not feature babies which appear to be under the age of six months nor include text or images relating to pregnancy.
Product labelling will also be tightened up to show that follow-on formula is only used by infants aged six months upwards. Only a small number of approved health and nutrition claims will be permitted on formula milk labels.
New scientific advice
The EU directive, published last year, was prompted by revised content rules for all types of infant formula in light of new scientific advice.
It also states that follow-on formula should only be used by infants from six months of age, not four months.
Each EU member state was given a certain amount of flexibility over how to interpret certain aspects of the directive.
‘Breast is best’
Announcing the new UK rules today, public health minister Dawn Primarolo said the aim was to keep the public informed about infant feeding options without detracting from the ‘breast is best’ message.
But the restrictions fall short of the complete ban on all infant formula and follow-on formula advertising which had been demanded by campaign group Baby Milk Action.
The Food Standards Agency held a public consultation on the draft rules over the summer, and the government will review the new infant formula rules after one year.
Ms Primarolo said: ‘What the government is doing is following through its commitment and trying to encourage breast-feeding because of the benefits to the mother and baby.
‘But we recognise that not all mothers either choose or are able to breast-feed the baby.’
Baby Milk Action
The restrictions mean follow-on formula adverts must not lead parents to the brands’ infant formula products nor risk confusing parents about the differences between the two.
Baby Milk Action, which represents the Baby Feeding Law Group coalition of 22 organisations, had called for a total ban on all baby milk formula advertising and online promotions.
It also called for infant formula company representatives to be banned from having contact with mothers via their telephone carelines or other channels.
The campaign group wanted a ban on promotional claims and images on infant milk formula product labelling and improved warnings and instructions.
The changes to UK law relating to the promotion, labelling and composition of infant formula and follow-on formula come into force in January.
© The Press Association, All Rights Reserved