The laws governing marketing of infant formula and follow-on formulas can be found here:
The Statutory Instruments that came into effect on 20th July 2016 in England and Wales made Improvement Notices legally binding. See our 2016 press release for details. Scotland’s Statutory Instrument also makes certain provisions legally binding, but does not provide for warnings through Statutory Instruments.
Remember that in addition to UK legislation, the most important rules and standards that govern baby food marketing are set by the World Health Assembly. So if you are worried about any unethical marketing, do check it against the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and the 20 World Health Assembly Resolutions and Decisions that have been passed since 1981. Most importantly, since 1996, eight Resolutions have specifically called for Conflict of Interest safeguards.
Click here to find monitoring reports from around the world.
Click here to find 4 new reports published by WHO exposing the marketing by the $55 billion formula milk industry, including:
WHO Policy Brief and “model law” for the European Region covering breastmilk substitutes, baby foods and related products
Some briefings we’ve used to improve EU legislation.
Opening pages of Briefing on Generic labelling
Briefing on the UK Law 2012 –
Foods for Special Medical Purposes
Commission Notice on the classification of Food for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP) (2017/C 401/01)
Governments must control their rogue companies
EU Legislation on Export 1992
EU Export Directive Council Directive 92/52/EEC of 18 June 1992 on infant formulae and follow-on formulae intended for export to third countries
Council Resolution of 18 June 1992 on the marketing of breast-milk substitutes in third countries by Community- based manufacturers Official Journal C 172 , 08/07/1992
CODE OF ETHICS FOR INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN FOOD INCLUDING CONCESSIONAL AND FOOD AID TRANSACTIONS
ARTICLE 4 CONDITIONS NECESSARY FOR FOOD IN INTERNATIONAL TRADE
4.4 National authorities should be aware of their obligations under the International Health Regulations (2005) with regard to food safety events, including notification, reporting or verification of events to the World Health Organisation (WHO). They should also make sure that the international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes and relevant resolutions of the World Health Assembly (WHA) setting forth principles for the protection and promotion of breastfeeding be observed.
Convention on the Rights of the Child
CRC Discussion Day, September 2004 Early childhood development: “Starting sound practices
early, Guaranteeing the rights to survival and development of young children, including the rights to health, nutrition
and education.” http://archive.babymilkaction.org/pdfs/crcreport04.pdf
Baby Milk Action has passed the coordination of Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG) to First Steps Nutrition Trust so please the FSNT Working within the WHO Code section for the latest information.
Monitoring the UK Law
Together with the UK World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) we have a team of volunteers, who monitor what is happening in the United Kingdom. We are grateful to Caroline Harrower who coordinated this project until March 2022. We welcome reports of violations to Baby Milk Action.
Below are presentations and reports about how baby food companies violate UK marketing rules and international standards in previous years:
2019 – report of UK Social media: 2019 UK Social media
2017 monitoring report Look What They’re Doing 2017.
UK Monitoring 2016 report is included in our Update 47 newsletter.
BFLG monitoring reports for past
Click Here for a Press release about the UK Improvement Notices http://www.babymilkaction.org/archives/10328.
The Statutory Instruments that came into effect on 20th July 2016 in England and Wales made Improvement Notices legally binding. See our press release for details. Scotland’s Statutory Instrument also makes certain provisions legally binding, but does not provide for warnings through Statutory Instruments.
CLICK HERE for Commission Notice on the classification of Food for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP) (2017/C 401/01)
See our guide to the UK formula marketing rules including the Department of Health Guidance Notes 2007
- The rules that apply
- Baby clubs
- Retail outlets
- The health care system
- Product labelling
- Reporting violations
Spot it – Report it
These handy cards available in our Monitoring Kit give an overview of the marketing rules, as below.
Carry the card with you or bookmark this page, then take a picture and email us anything that breaks the rules.
Archive: Previous UK formula marketing rules
Under the UK Law – the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007) companies must not:
- advertise infant formula to the public or make the brand or ingredients the main focus in follow-on formula advertising to the public (RG 21/GN 48).
- promote infant formula at point-of-sale by special displays, shelf talkers or discounts etc (follow-on formula products and promotion should not be placed by infant formula). (RG 20/GN53).
- promote infant formula in mailshots or emails to the public, even when the recipient has agreed to receive communications (ASA ruling A12-197524).
- put health and nutrition claims on labels (unless on a small list of permitted claims) or use other idealising text or images on infant formula (such as hearts, shields, animals) (RG 17/GN 32).
- pay for television programmes to show their infant formula or follow-on formula products.
- target health workers with gifts or idealising product information (RG 21) (be wary of company events, sponsorship and reps wanting to meet).
- provide information materials for use in health facilities without prior written approval from the Secretary of State for Health (RG 24/GN 74-79).
See the indicated paragraphs of the RG: Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007) and GN: Guidance Notes for the Regulations. (Follow the links from the BFLG website).
Companies should also comply with the stronger UN minimum standards.
The above information is included on our pocket-sized ‘spot it – report it’ cards, with advice on how to report a violation.
Four cards (one of them laminated) are included in our Monitoring Kit with other useful resources explaining the regulations.
Legislation relating to Brexit:
The explanatory memorandum for this legislation states that its purpose is to “remedy deficiencies in UK legislation relating to nutrition, arising from the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union (EU) in the event that the UK leaves without a deal having been agreed”.