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UK Government response to consultation on formula marketing regulations disappoints health advocates

Press release 21 November 2007 - send a message to the Minister.

The UK Government this morning announced the result of its consultation on revised Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations. Health professional bodies, mother support groups and other organisations belonging to the Baby Feeding Law Group and Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition had called on the Government to implement the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes as refrenced by a European Union Directive, but the Government has refused to do so, stating: "The Agency does not consider that ... the Directive imposes a legal duty on the Member States to introduce domestic legislation giving effect to the Code." It has rejected calls from its own Scientific Advisory Commitee on Nutrition and LACORS, the umbrella body for Trading Standards Officers responsible for enforcing the regulations, for a ban on the promotion of follow-on formula and infant formula and other measures consistent with the Code.


The Government response to the consultation can be downloaded at:

The Government also rejected calls by the BFLG, Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition and LACORS for a statutory requirement that formula companies warn parents of possible contamination of powdered formula with harmful bacteria and how to reduce the risks. The Government response states: "The Regulations do not require such labelling as there is no requirement to do so in the Directive. The Agency is working with formula manufacturers to agree a suitable form of words for voluntary labelling which would inform consumers that infant formula and follow-on formula are non-sterile." A voluntary agreement is believed to have limited value as formula companies have failed to bring their labels into line with Government guidance to parents issued in November 2005 despite all launching new labels onto the market in 2007.

The Government issued a press release presenting the regulations as a major step forward, while announcing a consultation on the guidelines to accompany them. See:

Mike Brady, coordinator of the Baby Feeding Law Group monitoring project, said: "As the recommendations of the BFLG and Breastfeeding Manifesto coalition appear not to have been taken on board, we will continue to press for the regulations to be brought into line with international standards to protect breastfeeding and to protect babies fed on formula."

BFLG subission

For the list of Baby Feeding Law Group recommendations and submission to the government consultation, click here. BFLG will consider future action on the regulations annd its response to the consultation on the guidance accompanying them:

Alison Baum, spokesperson for the Breastfeeding Manifesto coalition of 39 organisations said: "We are very disappointed with the government's decision not to fully implement the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly. The 39 organisations of the coalition will continue to work collaboratively until the government puts the health of children in the UK before the interests of the formula industry."

Submissions to the consultation from the baby food industry advocated taking minimal action. For example the Infant and Dietetic Food Assocation, representing formula manufacturers, stated: "We do not believe that there is any need for further restrictions in the UK."

Patti Rundall OBE, Policy Director at Baby Milk Action, said

“The response to the consultation issued today by the Government clearly show that it has bowed to industry pressure. It has failed to heed the evidence-based advice of all the leading health professional and lay bodies, who met Dawn Primarolo today. The regulations are an inadequate response and will continue to put UK mothers and babies health at risk in favour of the interests of the formula milk industries. “

“Despite its strong support for the international Code in international arenas, the UK’s record on implementing it is so partial as to be largely ineffective leaving the UK breastfeeding rates almost the lowest in Europe . 17 members of the Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG) and the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition (BMC) were pleased to meet the Minister this morning, but were disappointed to hear the confused and complicated strategy presented.”

The baby food industry has consistently opposed implementation of the Code and Resolutions in legislation, despite the fact that Article 11.3 calls on companies to abide by the provisions independently of government action. Countries such as India and Brazil have implemented the measures, which is having a dramatic impact. In Brazil, for example, the media duration of breastfeeding has increased from less than 3 months in the 1970s to 10 months today. In the UK 9 out of 10 mothers who stopped breastfeeding by 6 weeks said they wanted to breastfeed for longer, as did 40% of mothers who breastfed for six months (see BFLG report and Mike Brady's blog)

Better regulations are essential not only to protect breastfeeding, but to protect babies fed on formula. See Baby Milk Action press releases:

Baby formula 'carelines' endangering health with poor advice, spot monitoring finds

New UK formula labels lack correct information - calls for better warnings and instructions

The blog: Which infant formula is the best? - Companies do not provide objective information.

And Baby Milk Action's Safer formula campaign.


Call Mike Brady, BFLG monitoring project on 07986 736179

Joan Reid, Breastfeeding Manifesto: 07971 731422

Patti Rundall, Baby Milk Action, 07786 523493

Notes for Editors:

  1. The members of the Baby Feeding Law Group and the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition include UNICEF, Royal College of Midwifes, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child health, CPHVA, National Childbirth Trust, National Childbirth Trust, Unison, Save the Children, and Friends of the Earth.
  2. The Baby Feeding law Group is an ad-hoc group of 21 leading health professional and lay organisations working to bring UK and EU legislation into line with International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions. BFLG Member organisations: Association of Breastfeeding Mothers - Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services - Association of Radical Midwives - Baby Milk Action - Best Beginnings – Breastfeeding Community - Breastfeeding Network - Community Practitioners and Health Visitors’ Association - Food Commission - Lactation Consultants of Great Britain - La Leche League (GB) - Little Angels - Midwives Information and Resource Service - National Childbirth Trust - Royal College of Midwives - Royal College of Nursing - Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health - The Baby Café - UK Association for Milk Banking - Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative - UNISON - Women’s Environmental Network.
  3. UK Guidance on preparing infant formula 29 November 2005

  4. Baby Milk Action is the UK member of the global network, IBFAN – The International Baby Food Action Network , , the Baby Feeding Law Group and the Breastfeeding Manifesto coalition. IBFAN's monitoring around the world has found systematic violations of the International Code and Resolutions by companies well-known in the UK. It has exposed Hipp's aggressive marketing, particularly in Eastern Europe, in the past. See and Breaking the Rules. Also see the codewatch section of this site.

  5. Belgian baby death sparks safety questions


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