The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 78 complaints about the campaign that promoted the importance of iron in infant diets and the boosted levels of the mineral in Cow & Gate ‘Growing Up Milk’, compared to normal milk.
The ad showed a mother carrying a 20 litre container of milk to demonstrate how much milk would need to be consumed to gain the recommended level for toddlers of 6mg, compared to two 500ml cups of Growing Up Milk, that, “should be used as part of a mixed diet".
After considering input from Nutricia, the UK Food Standards Agency and an independent expert, the ASA concluded the adverts could mislead mothers and caregivers by overstating the importance of milk as a dietary source of iron for infants.
“We concluded that the presentation of the ad was likely to mislead by implying that milk was the most important component of a toddler's diet to consider in relation to providing adequate iron intake, when that was not the case,” it said, adding:
“...the presentation of the ad exaggerated the benefit of the product in the diet and was likely to mislead by suggesting to parents either that not using Growing Up Milk could risk iron deficiency in their children, or by contradicting good dietary advice for young children.”
At the same time, the ASA backed Nutricia in ruling that the ads did not deceive about the amount of iron present in the product.
Growth, brain development and learning skills
It also backed the health claim that the product was important for, "helping to support healthy growth, brain development and learning skills", due to its iron and overall nutritional profile.
In doing this it referenced the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR), and noted while no health claim yet existed for Grown Up Milk, one had been applied for by Nutricia under the children’s article 14 section of the NHCR, creating a derogation for the claims until the opinion was processed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
It noted EFSA had produced a positive opinion linking iron and cognitive development in children.
The adverts were also not likely to undermine parental decisions about breastfeeding, the authority said.
The 9-page ASA ruling can be found here.