Press release 18 March 2011
Several new films on infant formula are now available for health workers who provide guidance to parents and carers who have indicated they intend to formula feed. The films are available as the Infant Formula Explained DVD or electronically for hospital intranets and have been produced by the Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG) and Mark-it Television as independent resources suitable for use in UNICEF Baby Friendly accredited facilities. They feature interviews with experts to help health workers answer the questions parents ask, such as 'Which is the best infant formula?', 'Which is the closest to breastmilk?' and 'How do you make up formula properly?' A film on how to reconstitute powdered infant formula in line with World Health Organisation guidance is included in the package.
The marketing of formula is very poorly regulated in the UK, with the government ignoring repeated calls by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to implement minimum international marketing standards. Companies exploit the narrow legislation and its loopholes to promote formulas and all claim that their brands are the best on the market.
BFLG consists of 23 leading UK health professional, mother support and consumer protection organisations and has Baby Milk Action as its secretariat. Mike Brady, who appears in the film speaking about the BFLG monitoring project which examines company marketing materials, said:
"The media and people with books to sell sometimes like to sensationalise health advocates as breastfeeding zealots, but the fact is we want the best for babies. In the UK nearly a quarter of babies are never breastfed and many mothers who start breastfeeding will use formula at some point. We believe they all have a right to accurate information. As the BFLG monitoring projects shows, company information for both health workers and parents and carers is designed to push the brand and so the Baby Feeding Law Group decided to produce an independent, objective film."
By law, infant formula has to contain the ingredients known to be essential for infant health. Optional ingredients are allowed, but as the experts who have examined the research in detail explain, these have no proven benefit and are used for marketing purposes: cost is as good a reason as any for choosing a formula. Companies also market specialised products, such as milks for 'hungrier babies' and follow-on milks with extra iron and protein, but the experts explain these are unnecessary products and the whey-based milk used from birth should be used throughout the first year if a child is not being breastfed.
The experts also describe the specialised formulas for which there is occasionally medical need.
Powdered formula is not sterile and babies in Europe have suffered serious illness and even death due to contamination with harmful bacteria and a film explains the simple steps to take to reduce the risks, in line with World Health Organisation guidance.
In 2009, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against an advertisement for the most expensive formula on the market after finding the company could not substantiate its claim it was the 'best'.
This week (16 March 2011), the European Parliament Environment Committee voted to stop formula companies claiming on labels that DHA aids eye development, citing independent systematic reviews that found 'no proven benefit'. The full Parliament will vote on the decision in April. See:
DHA is a type of Long Chain Polyunsatured Fatty Acid (LCP), which are explained in the film.
For further information contact Mike Brady on 07986 736179
For clips and to arrange a license, visit the Baby Feeding Law Group website: