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Baby Milk Action

Email update 17 August 2016

The role of infant formula companies in World Breastfeeding Week – what they should do and what they actually do

It was World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) at the beginning of August. This is an initiative of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). Baby Milk Action and our partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) are part of WABA.

The correct role of infant formula companies during WBW is the same as at any other time of the year: to sell their infant formula in accordance with international marketing standards – and nothing else.

They should not be targeting pregnant women and mothers with information on breastfeeding or anything else to do with infant and young child feeding. But we collected examples from around the world of them doing just this. Seeking direct or indirect contact is expressly prohibited by Article 5.5 of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

Take a look at examples here:

Formula companies are concerned about the progress in restricting formula promotion and the success in promoting breastfeeding through initiatives such as WBW.

Companies have two objectives in trying to hijack WBW.

One: to be able claim to they support breastfeeding to divert criticism of formula marketing practices.

Two: to gain contact details from pregnant women and mothers and sign them up to parenting clubs.

Sometimes we see a third objective: information on breastfeeding that is either wrong or makes breastfeeding seem difficult to achieve or promotes unnecessary follow-on milks or toddler milks for when mothers “move on” from breastfeeding.

Any money formula companies put into an activity is an investment in boosting formula sales and the costs have to be recovered from those sales.

If companies stuck to their proper role then formula would be cheaper for mothers and carers who use it. No promotion = Cheaper formula.

Formula promotion in breach of regulations increases in the UK while Trading Standards Institute highlights cuts to consumer protection

Baby Milk Action is receiving many more reports of retailers in the UK promoting infant formula in breach of formula marketing regulations, as Nestlé and Danone step up their competition.

Right: Danone promotion for Aptamil PRO formula in Boots. Launched to compete with Nestlé's SMA PRO.

Boots promotion

Trading Standards officers are responsible for enforcing the Infant Formula and Formula Regulations (2007) in England and Wales, but according to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, staffing levels have fallen by approximately 53% since 2009.

Baby Milk Action stops some cases of illegal marketing by shaming the companies responsible in its campaigns. But there have been no prosecutions under the current formula regulations.

A new regime is being introduced with Improvement Notices to be issued by Trading Standards officers. We successfully campaigned for these to be legally binding after it was suggested they would decriminalise aspects of the regulations. Companies face prosecution and fines if they do not comply by the deadline given.

Please keep sending us your evidence of inappropriate marketing. We will work to stop as many violations as we can through our campaigns and present reports to the authorities for action to be taken. How effectively the new Improvement Notice regime remains to be seen.

Once Parliament resumes we will work with any MPs prepared to oppose the cuts to Trading Standards services.

For further details, see:

End-of-aisle displays, the International Code and the UK law

Baby Milk Action has been asked to clarify whether end-of-aisle displays of infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes break the UK law and/or international marketing standards. The use of such displays appears to have become commonplace in supermarkets in recent weeks and months.


Would you like your picture to feature in the IBFAN breastfeeding calendar?

Baby Milk Action is finalising the selection of photos for the next IBFAN Breastfeeding Calendar, shortly to go to the printers.

If you have a picture you would like to submit for consideration for this and future calendars, please send it to us in a reply to this email. We are looking for full colour, landscape format pictures in high resolution for printing A4 size.

Pictures are reviewed by the IBFAN groups that sell the calendar to raise funds for their work so we cannot guarantee your picture will be used, but all contributions are much appreciated.

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