We were contacted last month by people concerned that the Natural History Museum was hosting an event promoting the Aptamil brand of formula. We have now received a response from the government department responsible for the Museum.

The event involved a special screening of the film La La Land, organised by Time Out London, and was targeted at parents with young children. This is, of course, Danone’s target market for its Aptamil range of formulas.

The response from the Museum to those raising concerns was disappointing. It said the event was organised by Time Out and so not its responsibility, but also suggested hosting the event passed its due diligence procedures.

Baby Milk Action pointed out to the Museum that the promotion around the event was arguably illegal as it promoted a brand used for infant formula, which the Department of Health Guidance Notes to the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007) say is not permitted. In this case the formula being promoted was so-called “growing-up” milk, but used the same branding as Aptamil infant formula.

We also pointed out to the Museum that according to the Department of Health and the World Health Organisation so-called “growing-up” milk – milk for older babies – is unnecessary. Any babies who are not breastfed or receiving breastmilk should be fed on infant formula until 12 months of age. Thereafter they can have family milk. There is no need for follow-on formula or milks for older babies – they are an expensive rip-off by the formula companies.

We did hope this information would be useful to the Museum and it would agree that it should not undermine advice from such reputable bodies, particularly as it is an educational establishment. However, the Museum took a legalistic approach in its response, stating: “As an approved and widely advertised product, any association with Aptamil would have passed our due diligence test.”

The Museum also used the industry tactic of excusing misleading promotion by suggesting this demonstrated its neutrality on infant feeding methods, stating: “The Museum does not have a specific position on whether mothers should use formula or breastfeed.”

This is a false argument. Baby Milk Action works to protect the rights of all mothers, however they feed their children. The independent information from the NHS on milks for older babies is swamped by the promotion from the formula companies – and it is disappointing that the Museum is prepared to profit from this by hiring out its facilities, rather than changing its due diligence procedures.

Like the formula industry, the Museum also attempted to divert criticism of misleading promotion by stating it promotes breastfeeding  (although as people pointed out, the symbols for its baby care rooms are feeding bottles).

The Museum is a charity and the Charity Commission has guidance about links to commercial organisations, warning of the care needed over inappropriate links and the risks of reputational damage. However on investigation we found that the Museum does not come under the Charity Commission, but the Department of Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS). Accordingly, we contacted the Department asking it to take appropriate action.

We have just received the response, which is available in full here.

The DCMS stated that it did not think it appropriate to become involved stating:

“Any breach of the law in relation to the advertising of Aptamil’s products is a matter for other authorities, and we note that you have referred the advertising to Trading Standards.”

It also stated:

“We understand the Natural History Museum has provided a statement and informed you that your feedback will be taken into consideration for future events.”

There is little reason to be confident that the Museum will make changes given the responses it has given and its dismissal of those raising legitimate concerns with the suggestion they have “passionate feelings”.

We await the response from Trading Standards.

If you value Baby Milk Action taking up these concerns then please consider:

—-Museum response to the public:

Thanks for getting in touch with the Museum.

Regarding the upcoming Time Out screening of La La Land, you are correct that this event is supported by Aptamil. We recognise your concerns and passionate feelings on this subject, however we would like to note that this is not a direct relationship between Aptamil and the Museum itself. The Museum cannot speak for Time Out regarding the rationale behind their relationship with Aptamil. If you would like to discuss this further, we would recommend getting in touch with Time Out directly.

In these third party situations, the Museum consciously does its part to ensure all organisations involved in delivering or sponsoring events are able to pass our due diligence policies. The Museum does not have a specific position on whether mothers should use formula or breastfeed their children, as we largely comment on subjects which are active elements of our scientist’s research.

On a similar topic, you may wish to know that the Museum is a proud signatory of the Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme:http://www.breastfeedingwelcomescheme.org.uk/venues/natural-history-museum/.

We value your feedback and will pass it on to Time Out who are delivering the event.

If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.

  • 2 thoughts on “Government response to concerns over misleading Aptamil promotion at the Natural History Museum

    • 18/08/2017 at 11:03 pm

      Why does the Natural History museum tjink they ste above The Code?

    • 21/08/2017 at 8:41 am

      Very frustrating. Have Time Out been contacted also? Can we help with that?


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