Ensure formula-milk ads comply with WHO, advertising guidelines

Ensure formula-milk ads comply with WHO, advertising guidelines

According to Euromonitor, formula-milk sales in 2015 came to US$47 billion (S$65 billion) globally, fuelled by marketing tactics and a move towards “premiumisation” (Milk brands use premium image, consumer behaviour to drive prices up: CCS; May 11).

The profit margin speaks for itself: Abbott’s first-quarter earnings rose from US$316 million to US$419 million; FrieslandCampina’s profit last year was 362 million euro, up 5.5 per cent — small wonder that formula milk is big business with strong marketing.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has guidelines for ending the inappropriate promotion of formula milk. They include visible label information “on the importance of continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond, and the importance of not introducing complementary feeding before six months of age”.

There are processed, expensive types of milk — often sweetened and flavoured — that are not only unnecessary, but also contribute to childhood obesity, according to the International Baby Food Action Network. The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore should regulate the level and content of such advertising, through printed warnings that there is no scientific evidence to substantiate the manufacturers’ nutritional claims.

The Health Ministry should also support the WHO guidelines.