Friday, May 04, 2007

Heinz continues to flout UK baby food law with new labels

The crackdown ordered by UK authorities following our campaigning continues to show results with Heinz changing its labels. But as with the other companies, Heinz demonstrates its refusal to abide by the law by continuing to make prohibited claims on its new labels.

This is the old label.

Claims such as ‘closer than ever to breast-milk’ have been illegal since the introduction of the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995. Only 12 years later have the authorities taken action, by pointing out to companies that only claims specified on a list that forms part of the law may be used. See:

Here is the new Heinz label for Farley’s infant formula.

The ‘closer than ever to breast-milk’ claim has gone, replaced by: “with omega-3 LCPs”.

The ONLY claims that are allowed was again spelt out in the new guidance note to Trading Standards Officers: “The claims listed in Annex IV relate to: adapted protein; low sodium; sucrose free; lactose only; iron enriched and reduction of risk to allergy to milk proteins which may include terms referring to reduced allergen or reduced antigen properties.”

In other words, ‘with omega-3 LCPs” is not on the permitted list of claims and so the label is illegal under current legislation.

Sadly it is not surprising to find that Heinz is continuing to folut the law, even after being warned it was breaking it. It is our experience that companies do the minimum possible to comply and push the boundaries as a matter of course. It is why we shake our heads in wonder when people tell us that sitting down with companies and asking them nicely to change will be more effective than pursuing legislation and running grassroots campaigns to pressure companies to fulfil their obligations. Look. They don't do everything they should even when the law tells them to. But at least laws have enforcement measures, unlike voluntary agreements.

We are looking to the FSA and LACORS to take action to prosecute Heinz.

Heinz may argue that the claim about added LCPs is permitted under a new European Union Directive. However, the Directive has not yet been implemented in UK legislation and the FSA is currently consulting on how to implement it. The law is expected in 2008. Presently the claim is illegal and may well continue to be so in the form Heinz is presenting it.

Baby Milk Action and health worker and mother support organisations in the Baby Feeding Law Group are calling for permitted claims to be in text with specified wording and size, positioned alongside the list of ingredients. We are seeking a prohibition on claims being used for promotional purposes. When the new legislation is introduced the Heinz banner containing the ‘with omega-3 LCPs’ claims may continue to be illegal.

It is a measure of the contempt Heinz shows for the consultation currently underway that it has included this claim on its labels before the consultation has been completed and the law drafted and adopted.

The question is, will Heinz be allowed to get away with defining the law by issuing its own labels in advance? Or will it be prosecuted. Is the current consultation genuine or has it already been decided that Heinz-type banners will be allowed?

I will certainly be looking for action by the authorities, and calling for it.

It is probably worth stating that expecting baby food companies to act legally is not anti-formula or anti-bottle feeding. Some mothers will use formula for whatever reason. But they too have the right to accurate information. I've written about this at length in the past. See:

The ‘closer to breastmilk’ illegal claims have helped lead to the situation where a third of women incorrectly believing that formula is the same, or almost the same, as breastfeeding. See ‘Myths that stop mothers giving babies the best start in life’, Department of Health, 2005.

Now the LCP claims have promoted the idea that their addition helps visual and mental development. Yet the research does not show this. See:

Certainly formula should be available, but information should be independent and from health workers and mother support groups, not companies with a vested interest in increasing sales.

Heinz should be prosecuted for continuing to break the law and should not be allowed to bounce the Food Standards Agency into permitting its banner LCP claim.

While we are about it, the idealizing teddy bear image should go, to comply with Article 9 of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. That was adopted by the World Health Assmebly in 1981 and Heinz, like all companies, is called on to abide by it independently of government measures (Article 11.3). So 26 years to act and it continues to violate the provisions.

Heinz breaks the rules and puts its own profits before the rights of mothers and the health of infants. It has to be held to account and Baby Milk Action is here to see that happen. You can help by supporting our campaigns and visiting our on-line Virtual Shop.

Monday is a national holiday in the UK, so no blog (probably).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really think food manufacturers are the major source of so much illness in the world. Such crap in the ffod chain, let alone giving this to a baby!!??