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March newsletter 2018

There is still another week to apply to be our charity co-ordinator. If you have any questions about the job then do contact

Full details here ...

Roots to workThe Food and Farming charity Sustain have set up a brilliant new site to host jobs in the food sector called ‘Roots to Work’ – you can find details (and some other exciting job opportunities!) here

This newsletter is devoted to asking for our readers support in challenging inappropriate marketing of infant milks to health professionals in the UK.





But we would like to start with a Thank You to the staff and board at the charity Bliss who listened to both their supporters and those who value the support they provide, and decided to turn down a partnership with Danone Nutricia.

You can see their statement here

Community Practitioner We also welcome the news that Community Practitioner magazine will no longer take breastmilk substitute advertising, and thank the editor and editorial board for this decision.

Letter to Danone Nutricia about ‘nutriprem’ advertising

NutripremLast week 18 individuals and organisations who work to support appropriate infant feeding in the UK wrote to Caroline Winters, the Director of Public Affairs, and Danny Wilding the Public Affairs Manager at Danone Nutricia to ask them to withdraw an advert for premature baby formula which has appeared in the health professional literature this year.

You can read the full text of the letter here

The signatories of this letter believe that the implied claims that vulnerable babies will ‘survive and thrive’ when given infant formula is misleading to health professionals. The evidence is unequivocal that human milk protects premature infants from mortality linked to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Extremely premature infants who receive an exclusive human milk diet have also been shown to have a significantly lower incidence of NEC and mortality as well as a reduction in late onset sepsis, bronchopulmonary dysplasia and retinopathy of prematurity.

The advert also claims the nutriprem range of milks are ‘closer to breastmilk’ and we do not believe that the evidence they present to support this claim, and the other health claims in the advertisement, justifies this statement.


Make your voice heard
If you also agree that this advert is misleading and inaccurate, contact Danone Nutricia and ask for this advert to be withdrawn. A Word version of the letter can be accessed here.

We know from the response to the potential partnership between Bliss and Danone Nutricia that many voices can be effective.

Scientific & Factual If you want to read more about the regulations that cover the advertising of breastmilk substitutes to health workers then read the introduction to our report ‘Scientific and Factual? A review of breastmilk substitute advertising to health professionals’ (Pictured)

Here on our website you will also find details of how to contact the editors of journals, regulators, professional associations and others that allow advertising for breastmilk substitutes with example letters.

We are particularly concerned at the moment about the aggressive advertising of infant milks which are marketed as Foods for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP). This includes ‘comfort milks’, ‘anti-reflux milks’, ‘partially hydrolysed infant formula’ and ‘low lactose formula’.

milks banner

The European Commission, in response to concerns from Member States that products are being marketed as FSMP which do not fulfil the criteria for these products, sent Member States an information sheet relating to Foods for Special Medical purposes in November 2017.

In this they make the point that:

‘... given that the use of the product under medical supervision is a characterising element of FSMP, a product that can be used without medical supervision, in the context of the dietary management of a patient, should not be considered as FSMP

We have asked the Nutrition Legislation team at the Department of Health why FSMP products can be freely sold on supermarket and chemist shelves if they should be used under medical supervision.

We will be looking again at the advertising of FSMP products and the evidence used to make claims for health benefits. This matters because:

  • The claims made for these milks may undermine breastfeeding and infant feeding decisions.
  • Because families are paying more for specialised products which may be of no benefit.

Manufacturers spend considerable amounts advertising these products to health professionals because they know that a recommendation for a specific product from a health visitor or midwife has an enormous influence on family choices. Many health professionals are still surprised to learn that there is no way of challenging claims made by BMS companies for their products even if these are not supported by expert committees and public health guidance.

‘Similac’ brand formula withdrawn in the UK

Similac Similac (made by Abbott) was available solely through Boots the Chemist, but they are now withdrawing from the UK market. We will be updating the infant milk reports to reflect this change in the next month, but some stocks might still be available. Similac was one of the few infant milks widely available which was suitable for vegetarians. For information on milks which are suitable for different population groups then see Table 8, section 5.7 in our report Infant Milks in the UK.

Save the date We are planning to hold our annual conference this year on Tuesday November 27th, and this will again be held in Kensington Town Hall in London.
We are pleased that this year we will be jointly hosting the conference with HENRY who are celebrating their 10th birthday in 2018. We will send out more details later in the year. Henry logo


First Steps Nutrition Trust offers information and resources to support good nutrition from pre-conception to 5 years. Our aim is to produce clear and independent resources to support people who want to know more about eating well before and during pregnancy, eating well for infants and young children, and food composition and food quality.

First Steps Nutrition Trust takes no industry funding and fully supports the WHO Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent World Health Assembly Resolutions. We are funded through grants and donations. We aim to provide a one-stop shop for useful and accurate evidence-based information on good nutrition from pre-conception to five years. To find out more about the Trust, follow the link to About Us.

First Steps mother and baby

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First Step Nutrition Trust's newsletter is published regularly to promote information and awareness of the importance of good nutrition from pre-conception to 5 years and to highlight the work of the Trust.
Registered Charity No: 1146408