Forget the legal battle over the UK Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations for a moment. Today was the deadline for submitting comments to the consultation on the Guidance Notes to go with the Regulations.
Baby Milk Action produced a report on behalf of the Baby Feeding Law Group for the submission. It is called: "Trying to make the UK's weak formula law work."
The subtitle is: "Learning the lessons from 12 years of monitoring the UK law to better protect breastfeeding and protect babies fed on formula."
There is not a lot of scope for strengthening the Guidance Notes as the Regulations they relate to are so flawed. The hope for infants is that the government is serious in saying their operation will be reviewed during the first 12 months and they will be strengthened if aggressive marketing does not stop.
So the report sets out some of the marketing practices we are concerned about as a bench mark, with an exposé of Cow & Gate's mailshot to mothers on the cover.
Let us see what happens.
You can download the report by clicking:
Thank you to everyone who has sent messages to the consultation calling for better Guidance Notes and a broad and strong review. If you are in Wales or Northern Ireland you still have a day or two. The consultation has closed in England and Scotland. See:
You can also help by reporting examples of aggressive marketing to the BFLG monitoring project. These will feed into reports we will now be producing quarterly throughout the review period and perhaps beyond.
Are Guidance Notes important?
Yes. Twelve years after the 1995 version of the Regulations were introduced action was only taken about non-compliant claims on labels because of a change to the guidelines that accompanied them. Here's a reminder of what is on the market:
We know from the Wyeth/SMA trial in 2003 (where it was convicted of a 'cynical and deliberate breach of the regulations' after an 8-day hearing) and the current action by the industry, that they are not shy of defending their profits in the courts.
So Trading Standards need the rules to be as clear as possible to be confident of action. We are concerned the route the government is taking of treating one classification of breastmilk substitutes different to another causes confusion, which only the lawyers enjoy.
Remember that the after the crackdown on non-compliant labels all companies issued new labels in 2007, which again are non-compliant. They remain on the shelves a year later. If they continue to be produced under the new regime without action being taken then that is a strong argument for stronger and clearer measures.