National Childbirth Trust (NCT), Save the Children and UNICEF UK, published a report, A weak formula for legislation: how loopholes in the law are putting babies at risk, to ask UK Government to stop formula milk promotion, on 7 August 2007.
The report was released during the World Breastfeeding Week and coincided with the Government and the Food Standards Agency’s current review of existing legislation.
The three organisations are calling on the UK Government to strengthen the 1995 UK law on infant formula and follow-on formula that made it illegal to advertise formula milk in the UK by adopting the WHO Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes.
The report is calling on the Government to:
Ban the promotion of all types of formula including ’infant formula’ (for babies six months and under) and ’follow-on-formula’ (for babies over six months)
Stop formula milk companies from using their company name or logo on leaflets and in magazines as a form of advertising.
The organisations claim that the marketing of baby formula milk undermines those parents who want to breastfeed. Also, they remember that UK law is supposed to protect parents’ right to receive objective and accurate information about feeding their babies and young children.
Moreover, the report considers that the UK law contains loopholes that allow the promotion of infant formula via the advertisement of so-called ‘follow-on milks’ (denomination not banned by law) and that companies’ promotional activities have become more clever and more aggressive since the law was adopted.
The three groups highlight that the World Health Organisation, UK government and voluntary organisations recommend breastfeeding as the healthiest and the cheapest way to feed a baby as it costs around £650 (around 960 Euro) a year to feed a baby on formula milk.
Also, the charities note that those children who are breastfed are better protected from infections and potentially from even more serious conditions later on in life.
The report notes the followings advantages of breastfeeding:
Reduces the risk of acute infections such as diarrhoea and chest, ear, and urinary tract infections in babies.
Protects in later life against chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Promotes child development and is associated with higher IQ scores in low-birth weight infants.
Reduces the risk of women developing ovarian cancer, breast cancer, hip fractures, and bone density deficiencies.
Is free and “on-tap” - involving no sterilisation, packaging, transportation, heating, or waste of unused milk.
For further information
BBC news: Baby milk ads ’should be banned
BBC news video: Why some are calling for a ban on baby milk advertising
Breast feeding on the EU agenda
Baby milk company condemned for illegal advertising direct to consumers
European Commission’s Green Paper on how to promote healthy diets and physical activity