September 19, 2005

UK mothers confused by baby milk adverts

LONDON (Reuters) - Baby milk manufacturers are confusing
mothers with clever marketing that evades a ban on advertising
their infant formulas in Britain, according to research
published on Monday.

Three-fifths of women asked in a survey believed they had
seen advertising for infant formula, even though advertising it
in the UK has been banned since 1995, a survey for UNICEF UK
and the National Childbirth Trust found.

The researchers said baby milk firms were exploiting a
loophole, which allows them to advertise follow-on formula,
which is only suitable for infants over six months.

"The manufacturers have changed the way they package and
promote their follow-on formulas so they're almost identical to
the regular infant formula," said Andrew Radford, director of
UNICEF UK's Baby Friendly Initiative.

"This means that a supposedly legal TV or magazine advert
for a follow-on formula will also promote a company's infant

The survey questioned 1,000 new mothers and pregnant women
in August and found that nearly one in five (17 percent) who
used follow-on milk had started it before the baby was three
months old, despite it not being suitable for infants that

The survey found that 38 percent of the women had fed their
youngest child only with breastmilk and 36 percent had only
used formula.

A similar poll conducted at the same time by the Department
of Health discovered that many women were unaware of the
difference between the two preparations.

The Department of Health recommends exclusive
breast-feeding for the first six months of a baby's life.