Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cow and Gate in Tesco exploiting loopholes in UK legislation

Just look at what Cow & Gate is doing in Tesco supermarkets in the UK!

Though first remember that NUMICO, the transnational corporation behind the Cow & Gate brand, has been told by the Food Standards Agency that only claims permitted by the law can be used on labels of infant formula. The LACORS (Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services) guidance to Tradng Standards officers states that claims such as "Prebiotics supporting baby's natural defences" are non-compliant with the legislation. See:

There is also an Advertising Standards Authority ruling against prebiotics claims in a Cow & Gate follow-on milk advertisement which stated: "Our range of follow-on milks all contain a bunch of goodies called prebiotics to help build natural defences. Prebiotics are the special ingredients naturally found in breast milk, which of course is the best form of nutrition you can give your baby. But if you're not breastfeeding, our follow-on milks can still help your baby build strong defences." The evidence provided did not substantiate the claim. See:

Okay, so now to the reports we are receiving of Cow & Gate representatives in Tesco supermarkets pushing their formulas at customers, with stands, vouchers and prominent shelf talkers. Here is one:

If you are a regular reader of this blog it will come as now surprise to learn that despite all the above this includes the claim that Cow & Gate is 'with Prebiotic Care to support your baby's natural immune system'.

Is the law in the UK really so toothless? Yes, I'm afraid it is. If you look closely at this shelf talker you will see the small print says 'from 6 months to 3 years'. This enables the company to claim it is for follow-on milks not infant formula - though that is with it on the shelves. The UK law prohibits promotion of infant formula, but allows it for follow-on milks. Although the ASA has ruled against the claim in a follow-on formula advertisement it means nothing to the company.

The representatives are also handing out and displaying money off coupons with the claim that the formula helps 'support you baby's natural immune system throughout their early years'.

So the law is an ass and the draft revision of it prepared by the Food Standards Agency is little better.

With partners in the Baby Feeding Law Group and Breastfeeding Manifesto coalition, we are calling for the law to be strengthened. The Telegraph newspaper reports on this today. See:

Tomorrow is the deadline for submitting comments. See:


tracy said...

I took these pictures in Tescos and I really was quite astounded. Even my 8 year old spotted that it's wrong to make these health claims.
About all that was lacking was some bunting and a tombola, the milk aisle could not have been anymore conspicuous.
To see the small print stating 6 months - 3 years you really had to look carefully, and then what typical harrassed parent on a busy shopping trip would notice that bit?

Ruth Bright said...

You are quite right to point out how toothless the law is. Milupa have removed claims from cartons of Aptamil that their product is closest to breast milk. Now they say 'inspired by breast milk' - not that different is it? The promotion of follow-on milk is a real problem. I know of a baby who had to be taken to hospital because he was poisoned by the high iron content in his follow-on milk. As a breastfeeding mum of an older baby I was told by a HEALTH VISITOR that supplementing with follow-on milk was a good idea because breast milk is low in iron.

half pint pixie said...

Ruth, I was told the exact same thing today by a doctor, that I needed to get my daughter on to follow-on milk because she's over a year old & breastmilk is no longer good enough, so frustrating to think how many mothers probably take this advice and get the follow-on milk!