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Parents misled by 'Best Formula' claim -
ASA rules against Aptamil advertisement

Campaigners call for better independent information for parents who use breastmilk substitutes and ban on company promotion

Press release 22 July 2009

Media coverage: Daily Mail, BBC, The Scotsman, The Mirror, The Guardian, Press Association (on Channel 4 site), Marketing Week, Nursing, Food Navigator,, Visit Bulgaria.

Baby Milk Action, a not-for-profit organisation that works to protect the right of parents and carers to receive accurate, independent information on infant feeding, has had all its complaints against an advertisement for Danone’s Milupa Aptamil brand of follow-on formula upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK.

The advertisement had claimed that Aptamil is the ‘best follow-on milk’ and claimed an ingredient called IMMUNOFORTIS (a brand name invented by Danone), helped to protect against infection. The ASA conducted an investigation lasting nearly two years after Baby Milk Action made its complaint in August 2007) and, after investigating Danone's attempted justification, found the advertisement had breached the advertising code clauses on substantiation, truthfulness and comparisons.

In the same report, the ASA also ruled against an advertisement for Danone's Cow & Gate brand, which similarly claimed it supported the immune system. The National Childbirth Trust had queried the truth of the claims.

Misleading ad

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, coordinates monitoring of the baby food industry for the Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG), a coalition of 23 health worker and mother support groups working to protect breastfeeding and to protect babies fed on formula.

An example of the advertisement, headlined ‘Your baby’s natural immune system. We’ve done the research, he’s doing the development’ appeared in a celebrity magazine (Reveal Magazine 18-24 August 2007). While the investigation was on-going, the advertisement continued to appear (pictured above in Mother and Baby March 2008) and was exposed in the May 2008 BFLG monitoring report (page 5) available at

Mike Brady said:

“The ASA has refused to even investigate many of the complaints we have registered with it in the past and we hope it is changing its stance. Company promotion undermines breastfeeding and does not provide objective information to those who use formula.

"Under international marketing standards, which Danone and others claim to accept, companies should not advertise breastmilk substitutes at all. We call on the UK Government to meet its responsibilities to prohibit company promotion.

"The Government should ensure that objective, independent information is available for parents who want to know about the ingredients in formula and the differences between brands. A mother has a right to make an informed choice on how to feed her child.

"Danone is not alone in suggesting its formula is somehow better than that of competitors – who are parents to believe? Formula is really a nutritional medicine – it’s not like selling chocolate bars or yoghurt.

"It remains to be seen whether Danone will remove these untrue claims from its labels as well as its advertising.”

The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 and subsequent Resolutions have addressed questions of interpretation and changes in scientific knowledge and marketing practices. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly called on the UK government to implement the Code, but despite the chance to do so when introducing new regulations in 2007, the government ignored this and advice from health experts, including its own Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

Baby Milk Action is supporting the ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN, calling for political leaders to protect breastfeeding and to protect babies fed on formula. See:

For further information contact Mike Brady on: 07986 736179 or Patti Rundall, Baby Milk Action Policy Director, on: 07786 523493

Notes for editors

Danone purchased NUMICO, owners of the Nutricia, Milupa and Cow & Gate brands at the end of 2007. After being contacted by Baby Milk Action, Danone indicated that it would conduct a 'root and branch' review of NUMICO brand marketing practices. This was welcomed, but in its communications Danone refused to accept the need to bring policies and practices into line with the International Code and Resolutions. Since the takeover, it appears that marketing of NUMICO brands in the UK and around the world has become more aggressive.

The Baby Feeding Law Group welcomes genuine improvements in the composition of formula, but only if an ingredient has been unequivocally demonstrated to be essential and beneficial by an independent review of data, which must include a substantial proportion of independently-funded research. Then it should be a mandatory ingredient in ALL breast milk substitutes - not flagged up with a claim for commercial advantage. The BFLG position is clear that follow-on milks are not necessary and should never be promoted.

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