MEPs move to block baby milk health claim

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Infant Milk Breastfeeding Mead johnson

A committee of MEPs has voted narrowly in favour of blocking an EFSA-approved health claim that the fatty acid DHA in baby milk is beneficial to children’s eyes.

In March 2009 Mead Johnson celebrated being one of the few companies to obtain a positive health claim opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The US infant formula manufacturer won an Article 14 health claim for Enfamil Lipl that that read: “DHA intake contributes to the visual development of infants up to 12 months of age.”

Whether the company will finally be authorized to use the claim is now in doubt. The Environment Committee recommended yesterday, by 30 votes in favour to 28 against, that Parliament should not authorise the health claim.

A vote will be taken by Parliament on whether to reject the claim in the 4-7 April session.

Those MEPs calling for the Mead Johnson claim to be blocked argued that there is no scientific consensus on the effect DHA-fortified baby milk has on infants and that more research is needed.

MEP objections

British Labour MEP Glenis Willmott led the push in Parliament to have the Mead Johnson claim blocked.

Willmott: “The European Commission has authorised this health claim, but independent studies say there is no proven link between artificially added DHA and eyesight, and some studies have found possible negative effects of DHA supplementation.

“As the scientific evidence is still inconclusive, we cannot allow parents to be misled. Babies' health is too important to be left in the hands of a multinational company's marketing department.

“If an ingredient is genuinely found to be beneficial and risk free then it should be obligatory in all formula milk, and not be used as a marketing ploy by a specific brand.”

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