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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 November 2007, 15:45 GMT
No new ban on baby milk adverts
Baby drinking from a bottle
Milk for babies over six months can still be advertised
The government has ruled out a total ban on the promotion of baby milks.

It is a blow to charities who ardently promote breastfeeding and who wanted a ban on marketing milk for newborns to include milk for older babies.

There will however be new restrictions on how companies now advertise milk for babies older than six months, known as follow-on formula.

Claims such as "closest to breastmilk" must also be removed from packets under the rules.

There was no need to subject all baby milks to a total advertising ban because "infant formula is not junk food", said Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo as she announced the new measures.

Some women cannot or choose not to breastfeed and it is important they have the information they need to make the right choice for their baby's health
Dawn Primarolo
Public Health Minister

However the new Food Standards Agency guidelines should ensure that baby milk is not described by manufacturers in any way which "undermines" breastfeeding, she added.

"We are committed to promoting and supporting breastfeeding," she said.

"These new regulations will ensure that all types of formula are clearly labelled and advertised and that they meet the very latest nutritional standards for babies."

The guidelines have been drawn up in response to a new EU directive covering both the nutritional content of milk and how it is marketed.

Tightening up

Charities such as the National Childbirth Trust, which backs exclusive breastfeeding for as long as possible, had accused baby milk makers of using their "follow-on" ranges, for babies aged between six months and two years, to promote milk for newborns.

These new guidelines may make a difference for a while, but very quickly companies will find a way around them to make sure they get the message they want across
Belinda Phipps
NCT

The adverts, they contend, can seem vague about the product they are marketing. Because the containers look similar, the adverts may end up promoting the newborn milks in the minds of parents as much as the follow-on milks.

Under the new regulations, follow-on milk adverts must make clear the product is for older babies, and the brand must not be the focus of the advert.

In the shop, containers of follow-on milk must be suitably packaged so as to make clear they are a different product from the milks for younger babies.

There were already stiff restrictions on the advertising of milk for newborns. The new regulations close a final avenue of promotion via the health service, but this was in any event thought to be little used by manufacturers.

The new legislation comes into effect at the start of next year, although discussion as to how exactly companies should change their practices will be up for discussion until February.

Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the NCT, said she was disappointed by the decision not to ban follow-on adverts.

"It does make you wonder what pressure has been brought to bear," she said.

"These new guidelines may make a difference for a while, but very quickly companies will find a way around them to make sure they get the message they want across."

A Save The Children spokeswoman said: "They have missed an opportunity to close the loopholes in the law banning the promotion of formula milk in the UK once and for all to protect the health of mothers and babies."

Roger Clarke, head of the Infant and Dietetic Foods Association, said the new guidelines looked to be a "pretty sensible, measured approach from the government, although industry will still have to look in detail at what is planned".

He added: "All the data suggests that advertising is not a factor when it comes to women's decision to choose infant formula over breastfeeding. There are many other issues, from physical pain to achieving a balanced lifestyle."



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