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Save the Children's new report on marketing practices of formula-milk companies: what do you think?

(599 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 18-Feb-13 09:55:34

As some of you may have seen from press coverage over the weekend and this morning, Save the Children is today launching a report into the marketing practices of formula milk manufacturers.

The report focuses specifically on marketing in developing countries - where a lack of good sanitation and public health awareness can make formula-feeding precarious - and on the importance of colostrum to a baby's long-term health. You can read more about the campaign and see the petition here.

We've been asked to get behind this campaign - and as ever, in these situations, we need to know what you think!

Is this something MNers would like us to support? As many of you will know, we have long refused advertising from Nestle and its majority-owned subsidiaries. Save the Children's report is also critical of Danone, the second-largest formula manufacturer.

We'd be really interested to hear your views.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 01-May-13 14:08:59

Many apologies for the tremendously long silence!

We've partnered up with Save the Children to back their petition on this: you can find out more here.


JugglingFromHereToThere Fri 19-Apr-13 12:47:33

Thanks Rowan - I'm glad to hear it hasn't been forgotten about.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 19-Apr-13 12:34:20


Sorry for the rather long silence! We're going to be putting something up about this very soon and will link here when we do.


JugglingFromHereToThere Thu 18-Apr-13 22:37:34

Any more news on this Rowan ?

You promised us an update ?

JulesJules Sat 23-Feb-13 15:21:34

Yes, I think MN should support this.

Rainbowbabyhope Thu 21-Feb-13 17:30:08

Yes absolutely support this campaign. How can you not support it given that statistics in many countries are something like that babies are 6 times more likely to die if formula fed! Breastmilk is precious and pretending otherwise to spare delicate insecure feelings is just plain selfish. There is no breast milk substitute which even comes close to breastmilk (however much the companies producing it would like us to think it is) and it is a lifeline for millions of babies around the world where the choice which we have is just not a real one without putting babies at risk.

cleanandclothed Thu 21-Feb-13 16:57:56

I think the label issue is a bit of a distractor from the main problem (appalling marketing practices). Because once formula feeding has started it has to continue (generalisation but bear with me). And (I presume) in the developing world there will be places where it just isn't possible for the majority of mothers to make up the formula correctly/safely full stop. For a label make a difference in those places it just has to say 'don't buy me'! Which is why the campaign should be addressed to governments to stop bad marketing not the companies themselves.

If the main (formula/breastfeeding related) risk of children dying relates to incorrect preparation of formula where the customer has the power to change their practice to the safe one - a label is fine, because every time they pick up a tin they have the opportunity to change their practice.

If the main risk is not breastfeeding (because the area lacks safe water, or facilities to heat/cool, or because the income is low so formula is likely to be watered down) then a label won't help unless it prevents the initial purchase. And it seems unlikely that the companies would put such a warning on.

VisualiseAHorse Thu 21-Feb-13 14:50:44

But in the UK, I don't think a 'this kills' label would help at all . It has to be 'if made incorrectly, it could seriously harm your baby' type label.

Instructions etc should be made bigger - this is very important, and they should really be stressing the 'made fresh every time' and to 70 degrees thing too.

dreamingbohemian Thu 21-Feb-13 14:49:01

But as tiktok keeps valiantly reminding us, the idea is that every country would have its own label, which would be appropriate for that country.

I think it's fair to think that really dramatic labels are appropriate for countries where babies do die from formula, but perhaps not really necessary in places like the UK where formula is not ideal but not lethal.

The argument that you need the labels in the UK because they might end up in developing countries really doesn't make sense to me, because even if that's the case the UK label will not be appropriate for that country anyway.

I just think you're better off getting the companies to follow the Code in the first place, before demanding they adhere to Code + 1.

Shagmundfreud Thu 21-Feb-13 14:06:50

" if it's in the style of a warning that usually says 'THIS PRODUCT KILLS' then it's quite offputting."

But formula does kill babies in the developing world - by being made up wrongly or by damaging women's ability to lactate and leaving them reliant on a product many can't afford to keep using.

dreamingbohemian Thu 21-Feb-13 13:19:30

Yes, it's incredibly loaded. You don't have to use the word poison in the label, if it's in the style of a warning that usually says 'THIS PRODUCT KILLS' then it's quite offputting.

I absolutely think the tabloids are being alarmist and trying to rile people up by using that comparison, but at the same time it's not really a totally unfair comparison.

I think this is where some clarity would be helpful re the petition. Because it's not saying that all the instructions and such should be a third of the packaging, but that just the warning label itself should be that big. So yes, that does sound like cigarette warnings.

JugglingFromHereToThere Thu 21-Feb-13 13:08:02

It's a massively loaded analogy though isn't it dreaming, when we're talking about babies nutrition ?

dreamingbohemian Thu 21-Feb-13 12:48:21

I think 'cigarette-style' comes from the fact that under EU law cigarette warnings must cover 30-40 % of the packs. So I think that's a fair enough analogy. I'm not sure there's any other many consumer products where warnings are required to be a certain percentage of the package size.

I think if you already had huge warnings like this on alcohol and junk food, the idea wouldn't be so controversial in the UK. But there's not a lot of precedent for it, and the one precedent everyone knows is like the worst thing you can possibly buy legally.

VisualiseAHorse Thu 21-Feb-13 12:34:49

I take an evening off MN, and I've got some serious catching up to do!

Giraffe - yup, just the shitty newspapers doing a shitty job on reporting again. I very much doubt the warnings would be 'FF will kill your baby' - mostly because that's actually untrue.

I imagine that it'll be along the lines of 'Making up formula incorrectly could result in the hospitalisation of your baby'.

tiktok Thu 21-Feb-13 12:27:16

giraffe - newspaper spin, nothing like this in the original story.

VisualiseAHorse Thu 21-Feb-13 12:24:55

Jolibee - I am fascinated reading your story! It really brings home how hardcore formula advertising can be.

JugglingFromHereToThere Thu 21-Feb-13 12:21:56

Thanks leonard - noblegiraffe I'm pretty sure it was the Daily Fail the newspapers that so helpfully came up with that spin on things hmm

noblegiraffe Thu 21-Feb-13 12:12:26

I think, tiktok in that case there are major PR issues with the term 'cigarette style warnings' because "this will kill" is exactly what cigarette warnings say. I don't know if Save The Children have used it, but all the newspapers seem to have it in their headlines.

leonardofquirm Thu 21-Feb-13 12:07:24

Nice job juggling smile

JugglingFromHereToThere Thu 21-Feb-13 12:02:58

Has been a very well conducted thread I think MNHQ, where there has naturally been over-whelming support for the broad aims of the campaign - that is to ask that the WHO code for the marketing of formula/substitute milk be upheld everywhere, especially in developing countries where immoral marketing practices in this area tragically lead to a million baby deaths every year sad

There has been debate on the specific proposals from Save the Children regarding the labeling of formula milk and clarity has been sought on what exactly is proposed and whether this would meet WHO recommendations regarding the need for local labeling, most suited to the countries and circumstances where the formula milk is being sold.

Some of us have further queried whether the petition might be better addressed to UK and EU government agencies rather than to the formula milk companies themselves, especially in light of the continuing 31 year campaign since the WHO code was written, and the widespread on-going boycott of Nestle. Sadly relatively little progress has been made, though there is hope in the increasing breast-feeding rates of countries such as Ghana and Sri Lanka.
Perhaps asking our government to take action might be a more effective way forwards from here ?

(Hope I have all those details correct. That is my summary of the discussion.
Of course others may wish to offer their own thoughts ....
Hoping you will be able to see ways to take this forward Rowan and MNHQ thanks)

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 21-Feb-13 11:26:46

Hello all

Thanks so much for all the input - give us a couple of days to go through this properly and we will come back to let you know what's happening!

Thanks thanks

tiktok Thu 21-Feb-13 11:12:41

I think we can safely say the warning will not be 'Hey! Woman! The shit in this packet is well dangerous for your l'il bubba and you are well out of order in even thinkin' 'bout it - so get back to breastfeeding, right NOW!'

I would be against that wording.

PolkadotCircus Thu 21-Feb-13 10:53:36

I agree re the bunnies!grin

To be honest I wouldn't care if the entire tin was instructions it's just the warning I feel needs more clarity on and I don't get Brendan Cox's quote,maybe be was misquoted?

leonardofquirm Thu 21-Feb-13 10:52:25

I'm an analytical chemist and it looks pretty meaningless to me too tbh! It is marketing, not science.

I'd support this as its scandalous that the formula manufactures ignore the code, lie about following it, and generally only give a shit about
profits. They'd be over the moon if we all gave up bfing.

tiktok Thu 21-Feb-13 10:48:19

I agree, Polka, 'screeching headlines may not be the way to go. I don't suppose anyone was thinking 'screeching' or 'screaming' was appropriate.

Information needs to be clear; important information needs to be bold and obvious, and it needs to be more prominent than some of the other stuff.

About a third of the packaging here is a pic of a cuddly lamb and the manufacturer's name. How does that inform mothers?

Unethical marketing in the UK means the packs of formula milk are confusing and don't inform at all well. Someone going to buy formula for the first time has a hard job deciding which milk is suitable for their baby. The packaging is a haze of lambs, ducks, teddies and bunnies with nutritional information as part of its marketing text that's inexplicable to anyone without advanced knowledge of chemistry.

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