Infant milk panel formation targets industry action

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Follow-on formula, Formula milk, Milk, Breast milk

An independent panel has been formed by the UK's Food Standards
Agency (FSA) to scrutinise whether the advertising practices of
infant and follow-on formula makers are in line with new rules
on infant nutrition.

Chaired by Professor Anne Murcott, the panel, meeting for the first time next month, will oversee a yearlong review into how regulations designed to ensure that the role of breast feeding is not undermined by alternatives is working. The FSA proposals, which form part of a wider European clampdown on how manufacturers of infant formulae can operate, particularly in regard to nutrition claims on their products, have proved controversial for the industry. Under the rules, which came into place in January, manufacturers are also required to ensure parents and carers are aware of the difference between infant formula, which can be used for the first six months, and follow-on formula, which is only to be used after six months. Although, the new regulations have been stalled by an industry-mounted judicial review in January, they have now been reinstated in England, the FSA said. Key areas of focus for the panel's review will focu on whether these regulations are proving successful, or if further action is required. The findings of the review are expected to be reported by May next year, the regulator said. Regulations ​The regulations, which were published in November by the FSA, allow only a small number of health and nutrition claims to be used on packaging for formula milk. Claims to be allowed for products are: 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. Restrictions on marketing and promotion will outlaw 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. Criticism​ The issue has caused controversy as pressure groups supporting breast feeding have said the rules are not strong enough and government has bowed to industry pressure. Baby Milk Action are among the protesters who say advertisements for formula are putting mothers off breastfeeding, and have called for a complete ban. Judicial review ​ Meanwhile, earlier this year, an industry body representing infant formula manufacturers such as Nutricia, SMA, Heinz Farley and Nestle called for a substantial delay on the restrictions. The Infant and Dietetic Foods Association (IDFA) called for a judicial review of the rules back in January as it had only been told of changes in the previous month. The association says FSA and the Department of Health are being unlawful in making the regulations apply from last Friday. It argued that the EU directive sets out a compliance date of the end of 2009, these calls have since been rejected. Marketvalue​ The market for formula milk is worth some €597m and formula manufacturers have been adding extra nutritional benefits like omega-3 and probiotics to make the product closer to the nutrient profile of breast milk.

Related topics: Ingredients, Nutritionals

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