Infant nutrition rules are weak, group claims

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Infant formula, Milk, Breastfeeding

The UK's proposed infant nutrition rules have failed to protect
mothers and babies and bowed to "industry pressure",
lobbyists have said.

The new regulations cover a broad range of points hinged around making sure the nutritional value for any formula satisfies the nutritional requirements of the infant. It also hopes to make sure labelling and advertising is in line with the principles laid out in the European code, Commission Directive 2006/141/EC on infant formula and follow-on formula and amending Directive 1999/21/EC. But the subject has caused controversy as pressure groups say advertisements for formula are putting mothers off breastfeeding, and have called for a complete ban. The Food Standards Agency's (FSA) proposal does make some restrictions in advertising which would impact the lucrative industry worth some £329m in the UK, but would not be as devastating as a complete ban. Let down ​ Baby Milk Action blasted the FSA and claimed the restrictions proposed would be inadequate. Policy director Patti Rundall said: "The response to the consultation issued today by the Government clearly show that it has bowed to industry pressure. It has failed to heed the evidence-based advice of all the leading health professional and lay bodies. "The regulations are an inadequate response and will continue to put UK mothers and babies health at risk in favour of the interests of the formula milk industries." ​ Increasingly companies are looking at how they can best replicate the healthy profile of breast milk with the use of ingredients. Germany's Hipp GmbH & Co Vertrieb KG, for example, have used probiotic bacteria from BioGaia, which is isolated from human milk, to use in certain baby food products marketed in Europe. Others are adding omega-3 fatty acids, and prebiotics. Infant formula companies say the aim is to give babies that are not breastfed the best nutrition at the start of their lives. New rules ​ The FSA said under the guidelines only a small number of health and nutrition claims will be permitted on packaging for formula milk. Lactose only, lactose free, added long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCP), reduced risk of allergy to milk proteins and nutrition linked to nucleotides, taurine and oligosaccharides will be the only claims allowed. Restrictions on marketing and promotion will outlaw directly targeting formula to new parents. Promotional material for infant formulas will not be able to feature text or images relating to pregnancy, including pictures of children under six months of age or images inciting a comparison to breast milk. Rosemary Hignett, the FSA's head of nutrition, said the measures would protect mothers and babies. She said: "The guidance provides clear direction to industry on the action they must take in order to comply with the new regulations. The new controls will provide the protection that mothers and babies need and deserve."Pressure ​ In August, Unicef, National Childbirth Trust (NCT) and Save the Children released a report outlining why current guidelines are not strict enough and said more should be done to limit pressure on mothers from infant milk companies. The coalition said the current UK guidelines are not working because infant formula firms have become "cleverer and more aggressive"​ and are taking advantage of two "loopholes​" to flout legislation. The guidelines were the result of a lengthy consultation that took place earlier this year, and the FSA is expected to ask for further feedback before the rules become binding.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Nutritionals

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