Monday, November 05, 2007

UK Ministers under pressure from formula industry not to strengthen marketing regulations

The Sunday Express ran an article yesterday suggesting that the UK Government is going to heed the advice of health advocates and prohibit the advertising of follow-on milks as it implements an EU Directive on Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula marketing. This would bring the UK some way into line with World Health Assembly marketing requirements adopted over 26 years ago. Better late than never, but don't hold your breath as it is not yet clear if the report is correct.

And as the Sunday Express reports, the Public Health Minister "Dawn Primarolo has been under intense pressure from milk manufacturers not to legislate." And: "A spokesman for the Infant and Dietetic Food Association said last night: “We believe the existing regulations are sufficient."


As I reported here in September, Dawn Primarolo, shared a platform with Nestlé at an event sponsored by the worst of the baby food companies (on a global scale) hosted at the Labour Party Conference. See:

Nestlé has twice tried and failed to launch itself into the UK mainstream formula market in recent years. The UK is about the only country where it doesn't market its mainstream formula - here it has only specialised formulas at present. It is currently trying to enter the market by attempting to persuade midwives to accept sponsorship for materials ostensibly about breastfeeding. See:

So it is not yet clear whether the pressure from the established UK companies and the cheque book of Nestlé will sway Ministers over the advice of health experts, including the Government's own Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

We should know at the end of the week when we expect the Food Standards Agency to publish its response to a consultation on its draft revision of the law. The draft was widely condemned by health experts as insufficient. For further details see the report we produced on behalf of the Baby Feeding Law Group: Protecting breastfeeding - Protecting babies fed on formula. Available at:


Helen said...

I came across tins of Nestle Nan on sale in a instructions in Polish. I presume it was regular formula . I'm sure tht it's not the only shop where it is on sale

Anonymous said...

My son is coming soon from "not-so-developed-as-you" country, where he accustomed to Nestle Nan. To switch to another formula is harmful for bacteriae in his stomach (not because this is Nan, it is just harmful to switch often from one to another). I cannot find Nan is UK (hope to do so) because of your boycott.

Good luck, guys. Sometimes you think you're doing good, but not for everybody. I have to make harm to my boy because of you.

I'm not going to return to read comments, so please don't waste your efforts...

Mike Brady said...

I'll leave it to health workers to respond to this idea that switching formula is 'harmful for bacteriae' in a child's stomach.

Let me ask this question. Is Nestlé scared of selling Nan in the UK because of the boycott?

If it is then it would be because it doesn't want to fuel support for the boycott further by showing people in the UK first hand how it pushes its products.

It has actually tried to launch its baby foods in the UK twice and it went wrong not because of the boycott, but because of other concerns about its products.

It marketed a range of foods called the 'Junior range', but was criticised by health advocates because one of the range had more sugar in it than a Kit Kat and another contained a known allergen. It removed them from the market.

Then it tried to come into the market with Nan Hypoallergenic milk. The claim that the milk is Hypoallergenic has been the subject of court cases in the US and Nestlé is not allowed to use that term there after babies suffered anaphylactic shock after being fed on it incorrectly. The UK health authorities required Nestlé to add warning labels, which rather upset Nestlé's marketing plans.

The boycott doesn't call on Nestlé to stop selling formula. It calls on it to market it in accordance with internationally agreed standards and helps to force Nestlé to do so in those countries where laws aren't in place or are not enforced.

I don't particularly want to see Nestlé in the UK as it will likely drive down standards as it did when it entered the US market. There was a voluntary company ban on advertising until the mid 1980s. Nestlé broke the ban and took the companies to court for restrictive practices. Now advertising is widespread and very aggressive.