The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against a Nutricia advert, which it says implied a child’s intake of Vitamin D could be affected if they did not consume ‘Growing Up Milk.’
The advert must not appear again in its current form, and the ASA has told Danone-owned Nutricia its future advertising must not imply or state the same message.
Growing Up Milk is a formulated milk for toddlers aged 12 months to three years.
Danone Baby Nutrition has amended the website so the advert no longer appears in the form reviewed by the ASA. A statement from the company said, "It was not our intention to imply that a young child's intake of vitamin D, and as a result, their health, could be affected if they did not consume Growing Up Milk.
"In the context of the whole website, Growing Up Milk is suggested as one possible route to increasing a child’s intake of vitamin D alongside other dietary sources (including supplements) and sunshine."
The website (growingupmilkinfo.com) stated there are foods fortified with vitamin D, like fortified breakfast cereals and Growing Up Milk, "which can offer a simple and convenient solution. For example, just two 150ml beakers a day of Growing Up Milk can provide your toddler with 73% of their RNI."
It highlighted sunshine as the 'main source' of vitamin D and outlined food sources.
It presented two almost identical food menus, but the first had 300ml cows’ milk whereas the second replaced this with 300ml Growing Up Milk.
The text said, "Both of these menus look healthy, but the menu on the left [cows’ milk’] doesn't provide enough vitamin D for a toddler. The menu on the right shows how switching cows' milk to Growing Up Milk can increase a toddler's daily dietary vitamin D intake."
A comparison was drawn in the menus’ vitamin D contents, with the cows’ milk menu containing 2.1 µg vitamin D while the Growing Up Milk menu had 7.2µg vitamin D.
Underneath the menus, the small print stated "The Reference Nutrient Intake for toddlers is 7 micrograms of vitamin D per day".
The complainant challenged whether the ad breached the Code, because it implied a child’s intake of vitamin D, and as a result, their health, could be affected if they did not consume Growing Up Milk.
The ASA drew on advice from the UK Department of Health (DH), which said infants and young children under 5 are at risk of vitamin D deficiency and suggests a daily vitamin D supplement should be given alongside a varied diet to reach a recommended intake of 7 – 8.5 µg/day.
Because it recommends infants and young children under 5 should be given vitamin D supplements in the diet, the DH said Growing Up Milk should not be required, and should not be used in place of supplements.
Nutricia said it believed the advert reflected DH recommendations and drew attention to lack of vitamin D in typical toddler diets.
It said its advert set out the three main sources of vitamin D as sunlight, food and supplements. Growing Up Milk was presented as one of a number of good sources in a mixed diet, rather than the sole way to get the vitamin. It also outlined other foods that contain vitamin D.
Nutricia believed it was clear from the ad that supplementation could come from a standalone vitamin supplement. It said the menu with Growing Up Milk did not ‘swap cows’ milk out’, but showed that Growing Up Milk provided added fortification.
In its adjudication, the ASA said “The menu that replaced 300 ml cows' milk with 300 ml Growing Up Milk illustrated a significant increase of vitamin D in that diet. We considered that this suggested that Growing Up Milk should be given as part of a varied diet for a toddler, because otherwise they would not consume enough vitamin D to meet their daily RNI.”
It acknowledged the ad referred to various foods rich in vitamin D, and that it also stated infants and young children should be given vitamin D supplementation .
“However, we considered the overall implication of the ad was that young children should consume Growing Up Milk to ensure they received the recommended RNI of vitamin D, rather than, as recommended by the DH, that they should in the first instance be given vitamin D supplements (unless they were already consuming 500 ml of formula per day).”
“We concluded the ad breached the Code, because it implied that a young child's intake of vitamin D, and as a result, their health, could be affected if they did not consume Growing Up Milk.”
The ASA also raised concerns about the potential adverse effects from excessive vitamin intake. In response, Nutricia said a toddler’s diet could include both Growing Up Milk and supplementation without going above EFSA’s suggested tolerable upper intake level of vitamin D.
Danone Baby Nutrition response
Helen Messenger, head of corporate communications, Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition, said "The ASA today issued a ruling concluding that the "Sources of Vitamin D" webpage on our website Growing Up Milk Info breached the CAP code.
"In their adjudication the ASA accepted that a varied diet may not always provide the recommended intake of vitamin D for young children. The ASA also acknowledged that Growing Up Milk Info recognised the Department of Health's advice on vitamin D supplementation, to be provided alongside a varied diet, to ensure that young children received the recommended RNI of vitamin D.
"We regret that, despite the above, the ASA concluded that the webpage breached the CAP Code.
"Growing Up Milk Info supports the Department of Health's recommendations that children under the age of five receive a daily vitamin D supplement, alongside a varied diet and this is make clear in various places on the website. We have already amended the website to incorporate the ASA’s ruling and this advert no longer appears in the form reviewed by the ASA."
The Growing Up Milk Info site is designed as an information resource on toddlers' nutritional needs, and how Growing Up Milk for children can support childrens growth and development, the statement added.
The ASA is the UK’s independent regulator for advertising across all media.