The European Parliament has passed legislation banning the use of images of babies on packs of infant and follow-on formula in an attempt to prevent the idealisation of breast milk substitutes over breast milk.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted this morning on whether to adopt new rules on the labelling and content of infant formula, follow-on formula and other PARNUTS (food for particular nutritional purposes) to distinguish more clearly between foods for normal consumption and foods for specific groups.
The new laws will come into force in 2016 after a three-year transition period.
Among the new rules, the labelling, presentation and advertising of infant formula and the labelling of follow-on formula must not include images of infants or “other pictures or text which may idealise the use of such formula” over breast milk.
The European Parliament has also asked the European Commission (EC) to evaluate whether growing-up milk products, which are marketed for toddlers, really have “any nutritional benefits when compared to a normal diet for a child who is being weaned.”
Results establishes “order in the jungle”
MEP Frédérique Ries – who chaired a Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Foods Safety (ENVI) regarding the issue – said that the result would establish “order in the jungle of food products.”
“Infants, young children and seriously ill people are clearly not consumers like any others and it is our duty as legislators to fix stricter rules to govern, for example, the composition and labelling of foodstuffs intended for them,” said Ries, after the vote.
“On the other hand, it is also important to establish order in the jungle of food products, by abolishing the concept of dietetic food cannibalised by marketing tools,” she added.
The European Dietetic Food Industry Association (IDACE), which represents the European specialized nutrition industry, branded today’s result, “the final formal step in adopting a modernized legislative framework to protect vulnerable consumers.”
“Important step in the right direction”
Baby Milk Action, which works to strengthen controls on the marketing practices employed by the baby food industry, has also welcomed the rule change.
It believes, however, that there is still room for improvement.
“We welcome these new regulations which are clearly an important step in the right direction,” said Baby Milk Action policy director, Patti Rundall. “However the EU is still a long way from meeting its obligations under World Health Assembly Resolutions.”
“While labels are important, they are just one part of the problem, and we hope that in the coming months action will be taken to curb all the advertising and promotion that is misleading so many parents to think that these products are essential and better than continued breastfeeding and real family foods," said Rundall.