UK formula regulation

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The UK sees Nestlé malpractice first hand

The UK is now seeing Nestlé baby milk marketing malpractice first hand. Nestlé completed its purchase of Pfizer Nutrition/Wyeth at the end of December 2012, giving it control of the SMA brand of formula.

Baby Milk Action wrote to Nestlé asking it to market SMA formula in line with the International Code and Resolutions (noting that it does not follow these rules elsewhere unless forced to). We also asked it to respect various rulings we have won against misleading advertising. For example, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld our complaint against the claim that SMA is the 'best' formula – Pfizer Nutrition could not prove this claim. 

Another important ruling from the ASA against Pfizer Nutriton (A12-197524) states:

We told [the company] not to produce marketing communications for infant formula except in a scientific publication or, for the purposes of trade before the retail stage, a publication of which the intended readers were not the general public.

Nestlé is ignoring this ruling, continuing to promote SMA infant formula on websites aimed at the general public. It has also put in place a team of Nutrition Representatives to promote SMA formula to health workers at events at hotels around the country – it is launching SMA HA. It often uses guest speakers to try to entice them along to bypass restrictions on meeting health workers on health facility premises. 

Histon demoWe have been organising small, polite protests outside events. The example left was in Cambridge, where Addenbrookes Hospital told staff that they could not attend in work time. However, several student midwives turned up from a nearby college for a talk on water birth – with a session on formula by the Nestlé Nutrition rep. The protest prompted a debate at the college about conflicts of interest and it is now policy to discourage students from attending company events.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP), a member of the Conflict of Interest Coalition, said it was unaware that Nestlé was behind the event on the ‘Ins and Outs of Infant Care’ held on its premises on 9 July 2013 and would not host Nestlé in future. Nestlé issued a statement on its website rejecting the RCP's claim. 

Nestlé no longer gives public information on where the events will be held, instead requiring those interested to register via its website – where it promotes its SMA formula.

Find out more about forthcoming protests.

● Are you a health worker? Why not order a mug to show your independence from Nestlé and Danone (pg 12 and pg 27).

● See First Steps Nutrition Trust briefing: Partially hydrolysed whey based infant formula and the prevention of allergy: A summary of current evidence and policy.


Independent assessment of company information

The Lancashire Infant Feeding Information Board (LIFIB) invites company reps. to present information on their products to designated experts. Its February bulletin assesses the claims made for SMA HA and milks from other companies.

To receive the bulletin contact: or @The_LIFIB


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