Milupa and The Independent give a master class in escaping through the loopholes in the UK baby milk marketing law
15 July 2005
Health campaigners have watched with incredulity as Milupa has been allowed to continue a month-long promotion of its breastmilk substitutes in The Independent newspaper. By simply changing the pack shot in the formula advertisement from Milupa Aptamil to Milupa Aptamil Forward, the illegal advertisements - allegedly - become legal.
Milupa Aptamil packaging as shown on its website- designed to promote the full range.
Changing the pack shot does nothing to stop the harmful impact of the advertisements. They suggest that Milupa Aptamil formula is equivalent to breastmilk, citing claims about health advantages which are disputed by the influential Cochrane Library.
Advertising of infant formula is illegal under the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995 and complaints were registered with The Independent, Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Having consulted Trading Standards, The Independent was advised that the addition of just one word to the advertisements would allow them to escape through a loophole in the law. Although World Health Assembly marketing requirements ban advertising of all breastmilk substitutes, the UK law permits advertising of follow-on milks (milks marketed for use from 6 months of age).
Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, which is campaigning for UK regulations to be brought into line with WHA requirements said:
“The Independent has given good coverage to our issue in the past so we are very disappointed that a paper that prides itself on its independent stance should take this approach in its advertising department. This case demonstrates how idiotic the present UK Law is. The aggressive, idealizing and dishonest promotion in the advertisements remains unchanged and undermines efforts to raise awareness of the risks of artificial feeding. Most parents reading the advertisements won't distinguish between Aptamil and Aptamil Forward. Milupa must be laughing all the way to the bank, while an embarrassed Independent nonetheless pockets its cheque.”
Baby Milk Action has reported many similar cases. The ASA, the advertising industry's self-regulatory body, refuses to investigate complaints, despite the fact that a legal action brought by Birmingham Trading Standards against Wyeth, makers of SMA formula, demonstrated that advertisements do not have to explicitly mention an infant formula brand to promote infant formula and break the law. Advertising on television, radio and in the print media is becoming increasingly commonplace and aggressive given the inaction of the enforcement authorities.
Recent monitoring by the Baby Feeding Law Group, made up of 16 of the leading UK health worker organizations, found that illegal promotion of infant formula is also commonplace in supermarkets and pharmacies. While Trading Standards issues repeated warnings no retail outlet has yet been prosecuted.
The UK Government has said it is working for a ban on the advertising of follow-on milks after the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child reported in 2003 that the WHA measures should be implemented in UK law.
For further information contact Mike Brady at email@example.com or Patti Rundall at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01223 464420.