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Ban on infant formula milk adverts

Advertising of infant formula to parents will be banned from January next year under new rules, it has been announced.

Powdered milk for babies under six months - known as infant formula - will only be advertised in trade to trade magazines and scientific journals.

Television and print adverts for follow-on formula aimed at infants over six months will be tightened up but not banned, the Department of Health said.

Infant formula advertising is already heavily restricted but is currently permitted in leaflets given out by the health service.

But that loophole will be closed when an EU directive on infant formula comes into force in the UK in January.

Advertising of liquid follow-on formula for babies over six months will also be tightened up to ensure parents do not confuse the product with infant formula.

Announcing the new UK rules, public health minister Dawn Primarolo said the aim was to keep the public informed about infant feeding options without detracting from the "breast is best" message.

But the restrictions fall short of the complete ban on all infant formula and follow-on formula advertising which some campaigners had been demanding.

Royal College of Midwives director of learning research and practice development Frances Day-Stirk said: "We are calling for a complete ban on promotion of breast-milk substitutes, so it is a little disappointing that this has not been implemented.

"We will continue to work with the government to ensure that women are given the information to make an informed choice about how they feed their baby."

Copyright © PA Business 2007

Royal College of Midwives

Do you think it about time that stricter rules came in against infant formula advertising? Should even more be done? Please leave your comment, name and location in the feedback box below. Your details will not be published if you so request. (Terms and conditions apply)

"This partial ban is fudging the issue. A complete ban would be preferable. As a midwife 30 years ago, many of us took issue with the advertising of formula in midwifery journals. As for the issue of choice. This can only freely be made if one has all of the information to make an informed choice. The formula companies are not going to promote the many and varied benefits of breast milk as against what has been termed the biggest uncontrolled study in history, ie feeding formula to babies. Today's obesity rates and epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes are not unrelated" - Marj Robertson, Nurse and former Midwife, London

"Breast is best and I support the ban. We are not going to get breast feeding numbers up if we do not educate our young about the best way to feed a newborn baby. Banning advertising is a start. Of course women should have a choice but if they are bombarded with images of contented babies being fed on  ormula milk, this will affect the choices they make. We should view the breast not only as a sexual part of our body image but also as a necessity for feeding babies. Toy shops sell toy babies and all accessories that go with it, a feeding bottle being one. This is not the right message for children who from a young age are given messages that babies are fed with bottled milk and not from their mothers' milk. Breast milk has many benefits that are lifelong and it's about time that women are actively encouraged with the right support to breast feed exclusively. Lucky for us in this country we have clean running water and adequate equipment to sterilise and prepare milk safely, thus reducing incidences of gastroenteritis in babies but in poorer countries this is not so. Breast milk is ever ready, the right temperature and what a newborn baby needs" - Name and address supplied

"As a first time mother who was unable to breast feed I looked at the adverts and information given to me in order to ensure I was making the correct choice for formula feeding. Had this "advertised information" not been available then I would have struggled to make the choice. I would have had to rely on the Health Visitor or midwife's recommendations. Is it right to give these professionals the added responsibility of recommending which formula feed is the most appropriate? Agreed "breast is best" but it is not always possible!" - Name and address supplied

"Midwives will now inevitably have to spend more time reasearching for current information for clients to enable facilitation of informed choice when looking for an alternative to breast milk. Best practice is to provide accurate information for mothers, so that they can make their own choice of brand when choosing to formula feed.Milk companies will now have to be even more devious when promoting their wares. Breast milk is undoubtedly the gold standard in infant feeding but this is a choice for parents to make not their midwife" - Louise Webb

"What happened to freedom to choose. Surely a more even balance of information on the pro's and con's of formula or breast milk is appropriate. We all know that "breast is best" but it is not always the most suitable!" - Name and address supplied

"It is quite wrong to ban advertising. Mothers should be well informed about their choices. Health professionals have become so paternalistic" - Alison Wall, HV, Watford, Herts

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