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by Tom Freeman
16 November 2016
Alison Thewliss calls for tighter restrictions on marketing for babies’ formula milk

Alison Thewliss calls for tighter restrictions on marketing for babies’ formula milk

Glasgow MP Alison Thewliss will today propose a new law to tighten the marketing of replacement breast milk products.

A World Health Organisation international marketing code was set up in 1981 to prevent ‘aggressive marketing practices’ when promoting formula milk, but the UK has never fully implemented it.

The guidelines are based on research which shows breast milk is optimal for children’s development and prevents infections and so attempts to prevent companies from encouraging women to give up.

However other experts warn some mothers do not get enough nutrients in their own diet to pass on to their babies.

The new law would tackle a loophole which allows formula milk manufacturers to publish “questionable” adverts in medical journals, said the SNP MP for Glasgow Central.

The proposal, which she will introduce via the ‘Ten-Minute Rule’ in the Commons, is backed by a cross party group of MPs including Tory Commons Health Select Committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston.

Ahead of the debate, Thewliss said: "I understand there is a genuine and sincere requirement for infant formula milk for mothers who can't or indeed don't wish to breastfeed, and any number of circumstances which lead parents and carers to choose formula. 

“I come to this debate with absolutely no judgement or attempt to tell other parents how to feed their children.

“I believe it is vitally important that parents get accurate information on the contents of formula milk, and the best way to prepare it safely.”

Thewliss cited a report by First Step Nutrition which questioned the scientific scrutiny of claims made in formula milk adverts in scientific and medical publications.

“At present there is a worrying lack of independent scrutiny of infant and young child formula, as well as growing frustration about industry marketing tricks and misleading claims being pushed on parents and health professionals alike.”

Current UK-wide guidance says such advertisements should only contain information of a scientific and factual nature.

Speaking about Kirsty, the Holyrood baby, for the next issue of Holyrood magazine, developmental psychologist Dr Peter Willatts suggested mothers be prescribed supplements to ensure their breastmilk contains sufficient iron and long chain fats to aid brain development.

“Our own research shows how babies were fed in the first four months affected their ability to solve problems at six or seven years of age,” he said.

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