Friday, March 30, 2007

International impact of UK campaign – plus Brazil asks for help

The news of the UK crackdown on illegal health claims used to promote formula has spread to other countries. We have had reports from Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Here is a picture of the Sri Lanka article.

You can download a pdf with the full article on the page by clicking here.

It is significant that the companies have said they will change their infant formula labels in the UK. In the Philippines the government has been taken to court by baby food companies attempting to block regulations there.

However, as I reported earlier this week, in the UK companies appear to have stepped up promotion of the illegal health claims on follow-on formula, hoping they will escape through a loophole in the UK law, which treats infant formula and follow-on formula differently. Meanwhile Tesco continues with illegal promotion of infant formula. See:

We look with envy at Brazil where advertising of all breastmilk substitutes is prohibited. The idealizing images of teddy bears and other animals are banned from labels and ‘Ministry of Health warnings’ are required, as shown below on a tin of Nestlé Nido whole milk.

Nestlé Nido warning

Baby food companies are prohibited from producing or sponsoring educational material. Breastfeeding rates, which collapsed following the entry of Nestlé then other companies a century ago, are recovering significantly. Violations found in neighbouring countries are stopped in Brazil. It all goes to show companies can comply if forced.

But Brazilian partners are still asking for help. Their law is under attack. The dairy industry has already succeeded in having the ‘Ministry of Health warning’ for whole milks struck down by Congress. This now passes for the Senate. You can send a message to the Minister of Health and Senators calling for the warnings to stand. You can find full details in our Campaign for Ethical Marketing. See:

The warnings are important because poor mothers tend to use cheaper whole milks rather than formula. Nestlé promotes its whole milk in the infant feeding sections of pharmacies and supermarkets, a practice it has refused to stop. Here is a typical example I photographed on a past visit to Brazil.

Ninho promoted next to infant formula

It is telling that our partners are not faced with the formula promotion experienced by too many other countries. It is also telling that the dairy industry is prepared to try to gain sales by weakening the warnings on the labels of whole milks.

The changes to the baby milk law were sneaked through – in the face of opposition from our partners – in amendments to another law. That law was about making it easier for businesses to increase turnover to boost the economy.

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