Friday, November 30, 2007

The influence of the formula and dairy industry in the UK

More bad news for the UK government and Trading Standards. I wrote yesterday of how applause for the UK crackdown on illegal claims on infant formula labels has quickly faded as companies have launched new labels which are, in some ways, worse. See:

The labels introduced since the crackdown are highlighted in the report Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2007 from the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), launched at a meeting in Asia this week. The report makes special mention of other practices in the UK. We are ashamed that the lack of action from the UK government to implement the World Health Assembly marketing requirements for baby foods makes the country a test bed for aggressive strategies.

The profile on NUMICO leads with tactics developed to target health workers and mothers, as first exposed in our pamphlet Hard Sell Formula.

Here is the feature in the Breaking the Rules report:

Click on the image for a larger version.

We have repeatedly drawn the attention of government Ministers and civil servants to these practices.

Earlier this year I spoke directly with the then Minister for Public Health, Caroline Flint MP, about the mail shot branded with the Cow & Gate formula logo which states: "I'm thinking of getting a t-shirt made - Danger! Sore boobs!"

See my blog:

So why is it that Ministers continue to refuse to implement the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly in UK legislation. Why do they ignore the advice of their own Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the health professional bodies and mother support groups that make up the Baby Feeding Law Group, which submitted the report Protecting breastfeeding - Protecting babies fed on formula to the consultation on revising the law?

Is it because it is not only those who put infant health first who make recommendations to Ministers? The Infant and Dietetic Foods Association, the industry body, opposed any strengthening of regulations in its submission to the government.

At the Labour Party Conference, Nestlé, which wants to break into the UK formula market by offering financial support to health workers, funded a fringe meeting and shared a platform with Caroline Flint's successor, Dawn Primarolo MP. See:

And we have recently learned that the government will be appointing a new head to the Food Standards Agency responsible for drafting legislation and accompanying guidance notes in this area. It is Tim Smith, who comes from the dairy industry. As the FSA website informs us: "He has spent his entire career in the food business". See:

Can we expect a dairy man to take a robust line with the formula industry? He will certainly need to.

The government has refused to make it a statutory requirement that formula companies warn on labels that powdered formula is not sterile or to require clear instructions on how to reduce the risks of possible contamination with bacteria. We argue such regulations are essential because the companies are not warning parents and misadvise on their telephone 'carelines'. When I conducted spot monitoring, Hipp's advisor even argued against the Food Standards Agency guidance to parents.

The government proposes a voluntary agreement with the industry instead of legislation and is consulting on 'guidance notes'. Mr. Smith will be taking over in March as the consultation ends and it will fall to the former dairy man to pursue the agreement with the formula industry if the government approach goes unchallenged. You can challenge it by sending a message to the Minsters here:


Anonymous said...

Mike & fellow boycotters, have you seen that the Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, is having a live webchat on Thur 6 Dec at 5pm? Questions can be left in advance on the website.


Dr G Swifte said...

You can find out more about nestle and the company's performance at These research reports will shed some light on the manipulative strategies employed by the corporate food companies.