A new label for Aptamil formulas reaches shelves in the UK following the crack down on illegal claims by the authorities. But if you read the law then look at the label it seems it is still breaking it. The question is, will the authorities act as they have so far failed to do over the claims on new labels from Heinz/Farley's, Cow & Gate and SMA?
You will recall there are 6 claims that may be made on labels under the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995. The conditions for making the claim and the text that can be used is defined.
After 12 years of campaigning, the authorities finally wrote to the companies reminding them of the facts and informing them explicitely that they cannot use claims such as:
* Omega 3 LCPs for development.
* Nucleotides help growth and the immune system.
* Beta-carotene helps the immune system.
* Prebiotics supporting baby's natural defences
* Closer than ever to breast milk.
Here is the new Aptamil label.
Now does the manufacturer, NUMICO (which owns the Milupa and Aptamil brands) really think it will get away with 'Inspired by breastmilk', when it has been told it can only use the 6 claims permitted by the law? When it has been told 'closer to breastmilk' is an example of an non-compliant claim?
Clearly it does. It is daring Trading Standards to take action. It is daring the Food Standards Agency to dip into its fund for backing a public interest prosecution.
Remember, too, that according to a Department of Health survey, 34% of women incorrectly believe that infant formula is the same, or almost the same, as breastmilk. See: 'Myths stop women giving babies the best start in life' at:
How could the women have picked up that impression, one wonders?
NUMICO is also trying it on with this made up word 'immunofortis'. What on earth is that? Something to fortify the immune system, one would imagine, but such a claim is not permitted by the law. The claim is in the name.
According to the back of the label: "Milupa Aptamil First contains Immunofortis, a patented mix of prebiotics inspired by those found in breastmilk. Breastmilk strengthens a baby's natural immune system helping to prevent infections and allergies."
The companies have been told that claims such as: "Prebiotics supporting baby's natural defences" are not permitted. Does NUMICO think it can get away with saying the self same thing in a different way? Yup.
You'll notice the label has a cute polar bear image. Perhaps they are moving on from teddy bears as polar bears have been in the news so much recently with film of the Arctic ice caps melting. Seems they are trying to tap into the zeitgeist for cuteness.
But what does the law have to say about such images: "13 (2) The labelling of an infant formula shall not include (a) any picture of an infant; (b) any other picture or text which may idealise the use of the product."
Plenty of idealizing text.
Are polar bears idealizing? Well, they are there for a reason and if it is not to idealize the product, to make to people look at it and smile, then I can't think what else it might be.
There is plenty for Trading Standards to get their teeth into here, even if they want to limit legal action to the bang to rights, bleedin' obvious, non-compliant stuff.
What did the Public Health Minister say the other day? Ah, yes:
"All local authority enforcement offices have been made aware of the new guidance and encouraged to enforce the United Kingdom legislation to ensure companies comply with the rules on claims."
You can read it in Hansard.
Will they be encouraged we wonder? It's not just Aptamil, remember. Here are some other bleedin' obvious non-compliant claims.
Heinz/Farley's new label has a banner on the front: "with omega-3 LCPs".
NUMICO/Cow & Gate's new label has a flash on the front: "prebiotic care".
Wyeth/SMA's new label has a whole host of things: "improved protein balance", "easily digested" and idealizing claims and images "love the milk you give", a breastfeeding mother in the logo and a picture of a mother.
As you know, we are campaigning to have the UK law strengthened. You can send a message to the Public Health Minister supporting this.
We must press on with this campaign to tighten labelling regulations and to stop the aggressive marketing that goes on as described in our Hard Sell Formula pamphlet.
But sometimes I can't help thinking what is the point of having a law in the UK if the one we already have is not enforced?
I very much hope I will be able to applaud the officers responsible by them announcing soon that prosecutions are being brought.
I am sympathetic. I know Trading Standards officers are over worked and under resourced.
I know that when Birmingham Trading Standards took on Wyeth/SMA in 2003 in ended with an 8-day court case, with the Chief Executive being described by the Judge as 'extra-ordinarily evasive throughout his cross-examination'.
But Birmingham Trading Standards won!
So here are four clear cases to pursue. And they are not just labelling violations. It is a matter of public health.
That's why the Public Health Minister has said Trading Standards are 'encouraged to enforce the UK legislation'.
Let's see Trading Standards chalk up some more landmark court victories please.