Press release 30 May 2012
Baby Milk Action is supporting a petition campaign on Change.org calling on baby milk companies to stop self-serving marketing activities and make permanent (not promotional) reductions to the price of formula. The campaign is backed by various UK mother support groups. Baby food companies are targeting parents with so-called 'educational initiatives' and 'mother and baby clubs' - strategies that promote brand names and gather contact details and are ultimately funded by those who use formula.
Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:
"Parents have a right to accurate information on infant and young child feeding under Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Baby food companies undermine this right with these self-serving marketing activities dressed up as education and support. A current trend is to claim to be promoting breastfeeding. However, the information is deceptive and subtly undermines breastfeeding, while advertising formula. Why should those who buy formula fund these marketing activities? The companies are violating internationally agreed marketing requirements and there are independent, accurate sources of information available. We say companies should stop the promotion, stop exploiting parents and make permanent (not promotional) reductions to the price of formula."
The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers said in a statement:
"The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers strongly support this petition.
"Offering fluffy toys, baby clubs and expensive information through phonelines and websites are patronising ploys. Formula companies are subverting international agreements designed to ensure parents receive information on infant feeding free of commercial pressure. All UK parents deserve better."
The petition is addressed to the Chief Executives of the baby milk companies and the Secretary of State for Health. It is available at:
The petition text reads:
Baby milk companies: no promotion, cheaper formula
1. We, the undersigned, believe that mothers and the wider public have the right to independent information on pregnancy and baby care. This is available through the health care system and mother support groups.
2. We call for baby milk companies to stop targeting pregnant women and parents with so-called 'educational initiatives' and 'mother and baby clubs'. These are strategies for promoting brand names and gathering contact details and are ultimately paid for by those who use formula.
3. We call on companies to make permanent (not promotional) reductions to the price of formula.
Note: The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly set out how companies can and cannot market formula. The Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007) and their Guidance Notes are also in force in the four countries of the UK.
Protecting babies fed on formula
Questioned on Facebook about the call for permanent (not promotional) reductions to the price of formula and whether this would encourage mothers to use formula, Mike Brady responded:
"Formula is one of the products with the highest mark up on the supermarket shelves. In Italy it was proven that companies formed a cartel to keep prices artificially high. The cost of promotion further increases the price. If mothers use formula, for whatever reason, should they be made to pay the price for this? The cost of formula already impacts on other family members because of the expense. Should other family members suffer for the greed and unethical marketing practices of the baby food industry? Stopping the promotion - including promotional, not permanent, price cuts - will stop all mothers being misled by companies."
Breastmilk substitutes can be viewed as nutritional medicine. Artificially high pricing may encourage families to reuse bottles previously made-up, rather than discarding unused feed as advised in Department of Health guidance. It may also encourage introduction of cow's milk or water earlier than advised, or even over-dilution of formula. Fairer prices are part of the campaign to protect babies fed on formula.
Wyeth is planning to start the SMA Baby Know-How roadshow in the UK in June 2012 to promote its SMA formula. See: http://info.babymilkaction.org/wyethroadshow
Mike Brady on 07986 736179 or Patti Rundall (Policy Director) on 07786523493
Notes for editors
For examples of how companies target pregnant women and parents, see the 'monitoring reports' section of the Baby Feeding Law Group website at: