Wednesday, 22 July 2009

David and Goliath - Nutricia & Breastfeeding Protectors

People who work to protect breastfeeding have something formula companies don't have: passion for baby's health. Formula companies have something breastfeeding supporters don't have: money. Oodles and oodles of money. Billions, in fact.

They more they sell, the more they make, the more they can promote and sell.

Breastfeeding protectors, usually have very little, or no money. They work in the background, scrimping and saving on the phone costs, and who used a first class stamp when a second class stamp would have done? Even the few lucky enough to be in paid employment, to protect breastfeeding, and therefore to protect babies' health.... earn a pittance for their skills and energy. They often work long hours unpaid, and go the extra kilometre unpaid and unremarked. They sit in small offices, or pouring over a hot computer in the kitchen, and work and work and work.

And fight and fight and fight.

And the ones with the expense account, the over valued salaries, the 'free' trips to Switzerland for 'research' for anyone who would like to come... they jet around the world... they pay for workers to visit hospitals and schmoose doctors, nurses, midwives... they don't need to fight. They pay others to do the fighting for them. They employ teams of lawyers, professional networkers, political supporters and researchers to 'prove' their fight. They pour their money endlessly out into the world, to stomp on, strangle down, and obliterate opposition to their corporate objective: to make more profit this year, than they made last year. Multi-billion pound Goliaths, sweeping the globe with the saving grace and power of their Branded Wonder Foods, available in all good retail outlets.

They hire the best advertising and marketing specialists on the face of the planet, and pay them to devise campaigns to hook mothers' in, and answer their fears about their baby's health, with beguiling copy on how they can help. How they can make their baby well.

In the background, the Davids, those fighting to protect breastfeeding at seemingly impossible odds.... harry around on the edge of the battlefield, picking up stones, and awaiting a good clean shot.

And two such good clean shots hit home yesterday, in the form of two rulings from the Advertising Standards Agency, here in the UK.

One David, Baby Milk Action, struck out against Nutricia/Milupa, for their advertising of Aptamil 'follow-on' formula.

The other David, the NCT, struck out against Nutricia/Cow & Gate, for their advertising of Cow & Gate follow-on milk.

Both were upheld! A bad morning over at Nutricia, one feels.

The rulings were about statements on the supposed 'immune boosting' qualities of both products. Aptamil's "immunofortis" and Cow & Gate follow-on.

Both complaints were upheld. Both were stated to breach advertising code, and that the claims being made for the products, were:

"On this point, the ads breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness)"

and that Aptamil also breached: "19.1 (Comparisons)"

So both these adverts, claiming immune boosting properties to their modified cow's milk drinks, made unsubstantiated claims and were therefore untruthful. They lied. One also made false claims of being the best modified cow's milk drink, compared to the other modified cow's milk drink.

And make no mistake. These products ARE drinks. They are not baby formula. They are not food. Formula advertising is banned in the UK, in order to protect mothers and babies from marketing about baby milk, and what it can do for their baby. These are 'added' ingredient milk drinks, to supplement a baby's mixed food intake upon beginning the weaning process. You may choose as a parent to discontinue formula, and to switch to the cheaper 'follow-on' drinks... but that's a choice, not a nutritional necessity. There is no 'rule' that you stop formula and move to follow-on. Babies should be milk fed primarily, for the first two years in life. That you can choose the types of milks, breastmilk or a modified cow's milk, such as formula, and then also choose to move from either to 'follow-on' milk.... but there is no need for follow-on milk. It's a branding of a product to make people buy something they don't actually need. Also, coincidentally, follow-on milk advertising only really appears in countries that ban actual formula adverts. Strange that, the cynic might be tempted to think.... oh, sorry, where was I?

Just like a cynic might point out that Nutricia got its fingers wrapped over 'pre-biotic' claims in follow-on milk three years ago!

These are huge victories for the organisations concerned: Baby Milk Action and the NCT. Huge victories for babies' health. They deserve all kudos and support, for fighting...fighting.. fighting. And getting a good clean shot every now and then.


Have you heard about all this at all, in today's news? Was it splashed across your newspaper this morning? Is it being debated on the radio as I type? Was huge shock and horror being expressed in your office, about how awful it was that parents were lied to about what they feed their babies...

I think not.

Following the story now, you can find a few reports, tucked into the back of online articles. In fact, the BBC news service is reporting on Teletext how the ASA upheld a complaint that a sausage advert was sexually suggestive! Well it had - it dropped it for the Glasgow Chicken Tikka Massala controversy, which has now also disappeared. Wow, isn't news fast? I'm amazed they can keep up with it all.

Reports, as I said are popping up, this has turned up on the Beeb website since I started this blog.

But given the size, nature and ferocity of attack on breastfeeding recently, particularly in the UK press... one wonders how easily this will be overlooked. Cynical? Moi? Or course not. I look forward to this being a lead on the Six O'Clock News.... and especially looking forward to the Newsnight report on how irresponsible it is during a swine flu pandemic, for Nutricia to be running ads telling people their product "supports your baby's natural immune system". I'll be transfixed when, no doubt, this is finally the breaking point we need, for serious news reportage of formula companies' claims about their products, to be brought to the public's attention.


It's not like I'm suggesting that it's not only Justice that is Blind... but media coverage of infant feeding issues, is too.

Oh, sorry, that's IS what I am suggesting. Silly me.

So, whilst we're still left on the fringes of the media community, battered, belittled and bruised for being those nasty gestapo lacto-facists, we need to keep today's victories in mind. After all, it's not like the mainstream news is going to do that for us! And we need to thank Baby Milk Action and the NCT, and applaud them, and remember most of the work is done by volunteers in both organisations. And tell them they are fab.

And to keep pointing out to our critics that rulings like today is why we fight to make sure mothers using formula have facts, not advertising copy, to work with.

Whilst we keep our pockets well loaded with pebbles. :-)


Rob A said...

Another great post.

It was covered in the Grauniad here:

arwen_tiw said...

That really REALLY wound me up too - saw the news story once, and then it vanishes.

While Cow&Gate - oh yes indeed - are still showing an advert for follow-on milks stating that it supports some natural immunity... :S Get reprimanded for a radio ad? Just show the TV one more often!

Anonymous said...

I always inspired by you, your thoughts and way of thinking, again, thanks for this nice post.

- Norman