Wyeth manufactures the SMA range of formulas. It was planning a series of SMA Baby Know-How events in the UK, to start on 14 June 2012. These break marketing rules.

Update 22 June 2012: None of the events went ahead as shopping centres pulled out and Wyeth cancelled the whole roadshow on 20 June – click here for Baby Milk Action’s press release.

What is the SMA Baby Know-How roadshow? According to the Public Relations firm organising the events : “The shows are designed to launch SMA’s new products”.

The bus (below) was used for the SMA Baby Know-How events in Ireland (see yourroadshow.com).

Your Road Show

They events will operate 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.”

None of this is really free, of course. It all goes onto the price of the formula. An overpriced product is made even more expensive to fund Wyeth’s self-serving marketing activities.

A mother who received an email when her child was four weeks old said she was ‘livid’ at the approach Wyeth used to advertise its infant formula. See the email and analysis on the Baby Feeding Law Group website:

SMA activities logo

These events and the information Wyeth sends to mothers when they sign up to its Know-How club (or are added to the mailing list without their consent) break marketing rules. Baby Milk Action is pursuing cases against Wyeth with the authorities for its SMA Baby Know How campaign and other activities, such as its “What’s the best milk after Lisa’s?” nationwide advertising campaign.

Campaign for baby milk companies to stop spending money on promotion and make permanent (not promotional) reductions to the price of formula. Baby Milk Action works to protect breastfeeding and to protect babies fed on formula. The marketing requirements adopted by the World Health Assembly have the same purpose. They set the minimum standards companies should follow.

Indpendent, accurate information is available from health workers and mother support groups. Companies should not be promoting their products. Mothers who buy formula ultimately fund company’s self-serving marketing activities.

Formula is already overpriced. If a fair price was charged, more mothers who bottle feed may then follow the Deparment of Health safety advice and discard unused formula instead of saving it for later.

Baby Milk Action is supporting a petition campaign on Change.org calling for baby milk companies to stop promotion and make formula cheaper.

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.

What you can do

The first event scheduled for 14 June at Lakeside shopping centre was cancelled. Here’s the announcement on Wyeth’s SMA website:

SMA cancels event

Help us to keep campaigning to stop the rest of the events.

 Update 22 June 2012: None of the events went ahead as shopping centres pulled out and Wyeth cancelled the whole roadshow on 20 June – click here for Baby Milk Action’s press release.

A note on Wyeth, Pfizer and Nestlé

Nestlé is purchasing Wyeth from Pfizer. We refer to the company as Wyeth (or more fully, John Wyeth and Brother Ltd) as that is the company that was taken to court by Trading Standards in 2003 for breaking the law with an illegal SMA formula advertising campaign. It is Wyeth that appears in a 2010 Advertising Standards Authority ruling on misleading information in SMA formula advertising. SMA is the formula brand name and it is against marketing rules to promote it.

Both Nestlé and Pfizer have been asked to cancel the roadshow.

Pfizer responded on 31 May 2012:

“Thank you for your email of 25th May. In response to your communication, SMA Nutrition is part of Pfizer. All proposed activities related to the promotion of SMA products comply with local regulations.

Nestlé responded on 11 Junes

“We thank you for raising your concerns regarding Pfizer Nutrition with us. However, since our acquisition of Pfizer Nutrition is still subject to regulatory approval in different jurisdictions, we cannot make any comments at this atage. Anti-trust regulations do not permit us to influence the marketing practices of other companies. Until all regulatory authorities have formally approved the transaction. Pfizer has to be considered by us as another company and we remain independent competitors. When the deal has been finalised, and Pfizer can be considered a part of Nestlé, we will, of course, appreciate receiving any concerns you may have regarding Pfizer Nutrition’s marketing of breast-milk substitutes.”

 That is clear, but it raises a question. If anti-trust regulations stop Nestlé from calling on Wyeth to respect the rules in the UK, how is it Nestlé and Wyeth are currently working together in the Philippines with other baby milk companies to undermine the rules there?


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