The UK law is not working - but will anything be done about it

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“I have made a commitment, too, to provide an independently chaired review of the new controls after their first year of operation. As I made absolutely clear to the relevant organisations in our private meetings, the review will play an important role in policy making and in assessing whether the new controls worked as expected. It will assess whether people have found new ways of getting around the rules or whether they are simply not complying with the rules. If the new arrangements are found not to be working, because they have been circumvented or because new methods emerge, the Government will respond proportionately and take the next step of considering further legislative action. We have therefore put robust measures in place.

“Let me make the position absolutely clear: the Government are determined to take tough action to stamp out those practices and to prevent marketing activity that directly or indirectly undermines breastfeeding.”

Dawn Primolo MP, Speaking in Parliament as Minister for Public Health, 16 January 2008, Hansard.

As explained on the previous page, given the undertakings made by the Government Minister in meetings with us, we are extremely disappointed by the draft review report. This ignores the marketing strategies shown in the report we submitted (shown on previous page).

Instead of examining whether breastfeeding is undermined it looked only at whether babies fed on formula are receiving follow-on formula too early. As the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child commented when calling for the Government to implement the minimum international marketing standards, “aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes remains common.” (see page 11

Here are some examples (all Danone) from the report submitted to the Independent Review Panel. Left: The cover of a Cow & Gate gift pack given to parents when they go to register the birth of their babies, containing postcards with the Cow & Gate brand to announce the birth. The Cow & Gate branded website is promoted, where infant formula is advertised. Below: This advertisement is for Aptamil formula in Community Practitioner journal stating that claims about the benefits of prebiotics (a term that is not permitted on labels) are scientifically proven and that Aptamil is the ‘Best Infant Formula’. Similar claims were made in an advertisement to the public for Aptamil follow-on formula, but the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the claims were not supported by the evidence, nor was it proven that Aptamil is the ‘Best Follow-on Formula’. The Guidance Notes for the law say that ASA rulings should apply across all promotional methods, but the ASA says it has no remit to enforce this. The ASA also refuses to investigate advertisements in health worker journals. The review ignores these and other failings with the regulatory system.



Aptamil Community Practitioner December 200

Recommendation of the Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child 

The Committee, while appreciating the progress made in recent years in the promotion and support of breastfeeding in the State concerned that implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes continues to be inadequate and that aggressive promotion of breastmilk substitutes remains common.... The Committee recommends that the State party implement fully the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. (CRC to UK Sept ‘08)


  • In an article in EU Food Law, (21.08.09) Danone queried the expert used by the ASA in its adjudication and said it would not be removing the claims from either its website or its product labels. The Trading Standards body (LACORS) said it may investigate taking enforcement action. The ASA has indicated that it may include websites in the near future.

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