Wednesday, November 07, 2007

UK enforcement body wants a better formula law

The Food Standards Agency is due to publish the responses it has received to its consultation on its proposed Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations, which have to come into force, under European Union regulations on the 1st January 2008. I have just checked and they have not yet been published. Look yourself at:

However, I did come across the response to the consultation from the enforcement body.

The Local Authority Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) is the umbrella body for Trading Standards Officers. It issued new guidance earlier this year regarding claims on formula labels, which have gone some way to seeing idealizing claims removed from labels using existing powers.

However, Trading Standards Officers, often find loopholes and ambiguity in the law makes enforcement problematic. This is reflected in the response to the consultation which is available at:

As with the submission we prepared on the behalf of the Baby Feeding Law Group, LACORS raises concerns over the failure to implement the World Health Assembly marketing requirements in the proposed legislation and, in particular, the difficulty in enforcing regulations that treat infant formula and follow-on formula differently. The following is an extract from the LACORS submission:

---extract begins

The FSA covering letter indicates that part of the intention of Directive 2006/141 is to ensure that “ the rules on the composition, labelling and advertising are in line with the principles and aims of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes “.

LACORS is aware that significant enforcement problems are experienced because the proposed FSA implementation of Directive 2006/141 may unintentionally perpetuate enforcement uncertainty in relation to controls over the advertising and marketing of follow-on formulae and related marketing practices.

LACORS view is that alignment of brand names and company names and logos blurs the distinction between infant formula and follow-on formula to the extent that consumers are unable to adequately distinguish between them. Consumers “ read across “ and whilst the manufacturers indicate that there are advertising/promoting follow-on formulae the consumer sees this as applying to infant formula as well LACORS believes that there is sufficient legal authority contained within EC Directive 2006/141 to enable greater implementation within the UK legislation of the controls set out in the International Code.

LACORS is aware that the National Childbirth Trust have sought legal advice on this aspect ( copy attached as Appendix A ).

LACORS supports the view that the same advertising and marketing and promotional controls which currently apply to infant formula should also apply to follow-on formulae.

These extended controls should be framed in such a way so as to cover generic manufacturers names, logos and other pictorial devices in the same manner as those which currently apply to specific individual product names or logos where the likelihood of consumer “ read across “ mentioned above will occur.

---extract ends.

Amongst responses on specific issues, LACORS shares our concern that formula manufacturers are not providing parents with the information they need to reduce the risk of possible intrinsic contamination of powdered formula with bacteria.

---extract begins
With regard to Regulation 17(1)(d) LACORS is aware that current FSA/Department of Health guidance is that minimum water temperature required to safely prepare infant formula is 70deg C. LACORS suggest that this figure is specifically included in the Regulations. LACORS is aware that one UK producer currently indicates that the temperature should be in the range 50 – 60 deg C. This is suggested to be a precursor for the possible future inclusion of probiotics. This is totally unacceptable on protection of infant health grounds
---extract ends

See our press release on this topic, which includes a scan of the Hipp label which gives this erroneous temperature information, at:

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know I am concerned about idealizing claims on labels and the fact companies continue to use them, despite a crackdown earlier this year. LACORS stresses the need for clarity in the legislation: "With regard to Regulation 17(4) the wording used should be amended to indicate that any claim relating to nutrition, health and composition are prohibited unless specifically included in Annex IV."

And you will know I have complained about the regulatory black hole that the internet and product placement fall into. We have tried to argue that these come within the scope of the law. LACORS wants clarity in the legislation: "
LACORS recommends that the Regulations are extended to address the issues of website advertising; product placement in publications and advertorials."

So it is not only health advocates calling for the proposed regulations to be improved, it is also those who will have responsibility for improving them.

The report we prepared on the Baby Feeding Law Group is called: Protecting breastfeeding - Protecting babies fed on Formula. Available at:

Let us hope the policy makers are listening.

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