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Over the past few weeks, the issue of baby milk products has been high on the EU agenda. The World Health Assembly passed a Resolution on Maternal, Infant and young child nutrition and the European Parliament adopted a Report on the European Commission Proposal for a Regulation on Food for infants and young children and food for special medical purposes.

World Health Assembly Resolution on Maternal, Infant and young child nutrition

The 65th meeting of the World Health Assembly that took place in May 2012 passed a Resolution on Maternal, Infant and young child nutrition. Initiated by Canada, the UK, Swaziland and Mexico, the Resolution notably calls on governments to:

– develop or strengthen nutrition policies, legislative, regulatory or other measures controlling the marketing of breast-milk substitutes.
– establish adequate mechanisms to safeguard against potential conflicts of interests.

Following on from the adoption of this Resolution, the International Baby Food Action Network, a strong advocate of transparency and governance in the area of breast milk substitutes, published a press release. on the political move.

European Commission Proposal for a Regulation on Food for infants and young children and food for special medical purposes

On June 14 2012, the European Parliament voted on the Report on the European Commission Proposal for a Regulation on Food for Infants and young children and food for special medical purposes.

EPHA followed the Report, as it contained issues that could represent potential public health threats.

During the discussions of the Report, the European Public Health Alliance notably asked MEPs to support amendment 86 according to which “Advertising of infant formulae and follow-on formulae shall be restricted to publications specialising in baby care and scientific publications and shall contain only information of a scientific and factual nature. Member States may further restrict or prohibit such advertising. The advertising of infant formulae and follow-on formulae shall be such that it enables consumers to make a clear distinction between infant formulae and follow-on formulae and avoids any risk of confusion between the above mentioned categories of products.

Although the United Nations Recommendations on the promotion of breast milk substitutes are clear: “there should be no advertising or other forms of promotion to the general public”, evidence shows that advertising practices remain and tend to confuse parents, a group particularly receptive
to labelling and promotion messages. The body of EPHA’s letter can be found here.

While it is regrettable that amendment no 86 did not pass, the final text, as agreed by the plenary, constituted an improvement of the initial proposal. The European Parliament Report can be consulted here.

Next step? The text will now go to the Council with a foreseen adoption under the forthcoming Cypriot presidency.

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