Press release 22 June 2012

Wyeth has cancelled its much promoted SMA Baby Know How roadshow after shopping centres pulled out of the event. Members of the public sent messages of protest to the shopping centres in support of a Baby Milk Action ‘Stop Wyeth’ campaign. Baby Milk Action, a civil society organisation that aims to protect the right of mothers to independent, accurate information on infant feeding, highlights that companies are prohibited from seeking direct or indirect contact with mothers under internationally agreed marketing requirements and that Wyeth’s advertising claims and labelling do not comply with UK marketing requirements (see notes).

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:

“National Breastfeeding Week is about to start, which reminds people of the health benefits of breastfeeding. Baby food companies seek to undermine breastfeeding to boost sales of their products. Company marketing strategies are also bad for mothers who use formula, who ultimately fund these self-serving marketing activities through higher prices. Hundreds of people have already signed our petition calling for baby milk companies to end promotion and make formula cheaper.”

Click here for the petition on change.org

The first event at Lakeside shopping centre on 14 June was cancelled the day before. The second event at Bluewater scheduled for 21 June was cancelled on 16 June, though Wyeth continued to advertise it until announcing the roadshow as a whole was ‘postponed’ on 20 June after other shopping centres also pulled out. Baby Milk Action is calling on the shopping centres to put in place policies to respect baby milk marketing requirements to prevent a repeat.

Wyeth already has a criminal conviction for breaking the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations and complaints against its formula advertising have been upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority. Baby Milk Action had signed people up for protests at the shopping centres and continues to monitor the situation  in case Wyeth’s current owner, Pfizer, tries to relaunch the roadshow  (Nestlé’s recent purchase of Wyeth is still going through regulatory approval).

SMA activities logo

Baby Milk Action had leaflets ready to distribute at the events had they gone ahead

Wyeth headed the webpage for its SMA Baby Know How roadshow as the ‘London Blitz’. The stated purpose was described by its PR company as follows:

“The road-show is called SMA Baby Know-How and will be taking place at various shopping centres around London. The stand will be somewhere mums can get advice, meet other mums, demo a couple of SMA products and sign up to Know-How, our baby club. In addition, we’re going to have a number of competitions and giveaways on offer and will be offering mums a free mummy and baby photo on the stand.” 

At the end of May, Baby Milk Action registered complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority and Trading Standards about Wyeth’s direct marketing after a mother complained at the demoralising email she received when her baby was four weeks old.

Detail from Wyeth promotional email in the UK 22 May 2012Ostensibly offering support for breastfeeding, this raised questions such as:

“If you’re breastfeeding, do you sometimes wonder if your baby is getting enough milk?”

“Feeling sore? …. If the pain continues or your nipples start to crack or bleed….

It finished (left), “Thinking of bottle feeding?” and advertised SMA infant formula with misleading claims suggesting its ingredients are “closer to breastmilk”. Full analysis on the Baby Feeding Law Group website – click here.

Baby Milk Action has also registered complaints about Wyeth’s national advertising campaign that suggests its SMA formula is the best on the market. A ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority is expected shortly – click here.

Mike Brady said:

“Mothers have a right to independent information, which is available through the health care system and mother support groups. That is true for all mothers, whether they intend to use formula or to breastfed. We respect a mothers right to make her own decision. Baby milk companies should respect the marketing rules, stop promotion and make formula cheaper, instead of making unsubstantiated claims to drive up prices. If formula were cheaper more mothers who use it may then feel able to follow the Department of Health advice to discard unused formula after a feed.”

As part of its aim to protect babies fed on formula, Baby Milk Action also works at European Union level and at the Codex Alimentarious Commission to improve the quality and safety standards for baby foods. As a result, industry analysts Euromonitor have commented: “In Western Europe, most parents are unaware that, as a result of stringent EU regulations on permitted levels of pesticide residues in baby food, there is very little difference between regular and organic baby food.”

Note: Baby Milk Action’s partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) in Italy successfully campaigned against a cartel of formula companies keeping prices artificially high there. The companies involved were taken to court by the competition authorities and fined over Euros 9 million.

For further information contact Mike Brady on 07986 736179.

Note: 

  1. The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly are minimum requirements for all countries. Article 11.3 of the Code requires companies to ensure their activities comply with the provisions independently of other measures.
  2. The four countries of the UK have introduced the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations and associated Guidance Notes which “shows how the regulations should be interpreted.”
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