Email update 12 March 2016
Diary date: Baby Milk Action members annual meeting, 23 April, Cambridge, with guest speaker Helen Crawley from charity First Steps Nutrition.
Time to enforce the UK formula marketing law - not weaken it - contact your MP
Many thanks to everyone in the UK who contacted their Member of Parliament about setting up an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Infant Feeding and Inequalities. This was formed on 19 January.
Action in Parliament is moving on - and you can ask your MP to sign an Early Day Motion (a petition for MPs) calling for the formula marketing law to be enforced. Read on.
The formation of the APPG is timely. The new Lancet Breastfeeding Series published in January highlights that the UK has the worst breastfeeding rate at 12 months on the planet. According to the last UK National Breastfeeding Survey, over three out of five mothers (63%) interviewed when their babies were 6 to 8 months old said they would have liked to have breastfed for longer.
We know the policies needed to support mothers to breastfeed for as long as they want. They are set out in the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. The new APPG will be meeting to hear from experts on how this can be implemented in the UK.
One concern is the lack of enforcement of formula marketing regulations. This is particularly obvious at the moment as Tesco is promoting Nestlé SMA infant formula across its network in breach of the law - with no legal action taken to stop it by the responsible authorities.
The Chair of the APPG, Alison Thewliss MP, has submitted an EDM or Early Day Motion (a petition for MPs), calling for the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations to be enforced.
Not only has enforcement been lacking, the Department of Health is proposing decriminalising some of the provisions in the law and weakening enforcement even further. The EDM opposes this approach. Baby Milk Action has submitted detailed comments to the consultation on these proposals on behave of the Baby Feeding Law Group, which brings together leading health professional and mother support groups.
You can use the quick links on our campaign page to contact your MP by email or Twitter to congratulate them if they have already signed - and to ask them to sign if they have not yet done so. See:
When tweeting use the hashtag #EDM1189
Tesco tries to clear shelves of Nestlé SMA formula with "excessive protein" as company launches new products
Many thanks to everyone who sends us reports of marketing practices that break the UK law and international marketing standards.
Current concerns include Tesco trying to clear stocks of Nestlé SMA infant formula with special displays and price discounts. Such practices clearly break Article 23 of the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007), which say there should be no special displays, price reductions or “any other promotional activity to induce the sale of an infant formula”.
Baby Milk Action is pursuing these cases with Tesco, Trading Standards and the Department of Health. But the promotions continue - hence the campaign in Parliament (see above about contacting your MP). For further examples and information on how to file your own reports with Trading Standards, go to:
Tesco is not telling parents why it is desperate to clear stocks. Nestlé is launching a new product it calls SMA PRO infant formula. Nestlé claims this "new improved" formula has “protein profile closer to breast milk”. According to a Nestle email sent to health workers, babies fed on the current formula have “protein intake in excess of requirements”.
Nestlé issued a press release with the results of a survey it commissioned to prepare the way for its new product launch. It was headlined: "80% OF MUMS SURVEYED DID NOT KNOW THE IMPACT OF TOO MUCH PROTEIN ON THEIR BABY’S GROWTH".
While its existing formula is on special promotion with no mention of "excessive protein", Nestlé is telling the press its "SMA experts are passionate about educating mums on protein during the first 1,000 days of a baby’s life". This is a way to divert attention from the fact Nestlé misled parents by implying its last formulation was almost the same as breastmilk and is a way to promote the SMA brand.
Nestlé's marketing company is offering media outlets the chance to interview a celebrity doctor to talk about protein and breastfeeding. If you have ever wondered why certain people are interviewed on breastfeeding rather than, say, experts from an independent mother support group or academic organisation, read our expose of this marketing campaign:
Nestlé has also recruited parenting bloggers to write about protein and direct people to the SMA product promotion website for further information. Details on the Parliamentary campaign page:
Any parents concerned about excess protein and thinking of switching to SMA PRO should look to independent information. First Steps Nutrition has examined Nestlé's claims closely and found "the difference is not sufficiently significant to differentiate it from all other brands".
In addition, it has been reported that some parents who have switched to SMA PRO available already in some stores have found their babies have reacted badly to it. We have discussed these reports with the Department of Health and are forwarding case studies to the appropriate experts. If you have concerns, talk to your health worker. All infant formulas on the UK market have to meet legal composition requirements, so there is no reason to choose SMA over other brands. See further information at:
Victory on baby food marketing regulations in European Parliament
Contacting your elected representatives can make a difference. Many thanks to everyone who called on Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to improve baby food regulations.
The vote to reduce the level of sugar in baby foods to follow World Health Organisation recommendations was won on 20 January. The Parliament also voted to stop companies marketing complementary foods for use before 6 months of age. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended to six months and only infant formula is needed for this period if not breastfeeding.
The European Commission will now have to submit revised text.
Resolutions calling for formula marketing regulations to be improved as well did not pass the Parliamentary Committee scrutinising the Commission's proposals. We now have to work country-by-country for measures to be introduced in line with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly.
For further details of what happened and to check how your MEPs voted, see:
Action in Botswana and Lebanon to stop Nestlé breaking baby food marketing rules
The press in Botswana reported in February that the police will be filing charges against Nestlé over violations of the formula marketing rules there.
This is a marked contrast to the UK, where companies have gone unpunished and Members of Parliament are calling for regulations to be enforced (see above).
Campaigners in Lebanon organised a mass breastfeeding event outside the Nestlé's offices this week in protest at its targeting of health workers. Organisers are petitioning the paediatric society to "stop illegal collaborations with formula companies" - Change.org.
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Julie Crawford Award for Breastfeeding Support 2016
This Award is given by the Baby Feeding Law Group. It is open to practising health visitors or practising health visiting teams who have made significant contribution to – or have an ongoing impact on - breastfeeding support in the UK, at individual or policy level.
Nominees must have demonstrated an awareness and commitment to the protection and defence of breastfeeding, facilitating universal access for support that is independent of commercial influence.
To help publicise the call for nominations, please share the link:
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