I was disappointed to see that the Government has failed to take the opportunity to tighten up the rules on the advertisement of artificial baby milk. In particular, I am concerned that advertising of follow-on formula, for babies over 6 months has not been subjected to the same regulations as that for younger babies.
These follow-on formulas started appearing a few years ago, not because there was any great number of poorly anaemic babies around, but simply as a wheeze by formula manufacturers to get round the law. What annoys me most about it is that the advertising and promotion of this stuff erroneously undermines mothers' confidence in the ability of their own milk to satisfy their babies' nutritional needs. They are told that their babies need supplementation with iron as the stores they have at birth are running out and breastmilk is low in iron. True, there is a lower level of iron in breastmilk, but it is much more efficiently absorbed by the baby. In fact, only 4% of the iron in these follow-on formulas is similarly absorbed by the baby and it can actually undermine the efficiency of some of the proteins in breastmilk which protect against infections in the gut.
Another worrying feature is the Government's failure to force companies to warn consumers that formula is not sterile and give a few simple guidelines as to its safe use.
If you walk down any formula aisle in any supermarket, you will find a whole load of ways in which the Infant Feeding Regulations are being broken. The main thing is the similar branding of formulas for babies under 6 months and their follow on counterparts. It is often unclear which product is being marketed.
Recently Jordan was pictured in OK magazine feeding her weeks' old daughter a pre-packed bottle of formula where the logo of the manufacturer was clearly visible. The entirety of the opposite page was taken up with an advert for the follow-on counterpart of this particular brand.
Many people complained to the Advertisiing Standards Authority who were powerless to act even in the face of such a blatant flouting of the law.
This isn't a breastfeeding v bottlefeeding debate, it's about protecting the rights of parents to receive independent information free from commercial pressure. Clearly this Labour Government considers the large corporations who manufacture infant formula as more important than the people who elect them.