In the wake of the European Parliament’s vote on the 14th of June 2012 on the Report “Food intended for infants and young children and food for special medical purposes”, COFACE expresses its regrets that a precautionary stance preventing parents of young children from being exposed to misleading advertising has not been taken.
We feel that as advertising of the baby milk and formulae products has not been properly addressed by the Members of the European Parliament, parents will continue to be exposed to advertising that plays with their emotions and feelings of guilt, and be confused by the wide variety of products and brands to chose from. Rules on the labelling and content of baby milks and food for people with special medical needs must be stricter and better defined to protect consumers, perhaps even going as far as to make them available on prescription only.
All parents want what’s best for their child. Therefore, commercial pressure taking advantage of that fact should not be allowed, especially for such products as food intended for infants such as breast milk substitutes. When it comes to the health of their child, the information to parents should come from professionals and specialists such as paediatricians, midwifes or doctors and not advertising and claims. Parents and mothers especially may be misled to believe that their child will not develop properly if they do not buy a certain product.
The United Nations Recommendations on the promotion of breast milk substitutes are clear: “there should be no advertising or other forms of promotion to the general public”, evidence shows that advertising practices remain and tend to confuse parents, a group particularly receptive to labelling and promotion messages. They often mix advertising for infant formulae and follow-on formulae and this is harmful to babies’ diets and health.
COFACE deplores that only amendment no 86 tabled by the Socialist Democrats touches upon the issue of advertising and even while it only goes so far as to restricts advertising to “publications specialising in baby care and scientific publications”, it has already been rejected at the Committee vote.