MEPs call for a rethink on the new EU laws  on formulas and baby foods

Member States Experts  meeting,  Brussels 20th April

CLICK here for background papers

Along with health advocates around the world we  have decried new rules on baby formulas and foods that are being pushed through by the European Commission with no time for proper consultation and expert reflection.   The proposals will trick parents into buying expensive and  unnecessary products that will fuel the obesity crisis. They will also  impact on global trade rules and infant feeding in developing countries where infant feeding is a lifeline.

Here are two questions by MEPs Daciana Sarbu, Socialist MEP, Romania,  and Keith Taylor, Green MEP for SE England  highlighting problems and calling for a rethink.

Anneliese Dodds, Socialist MEP for SE England,  has also written to the Commission expressing concern about the proposals.

LEGAL CERTAINTY OVER PROMOTION: We know that several Member States – including the UK – question the usefulness of Follow-on Formulas  and would like to see text that gives them the legal certainty to control Follow-on Formula (and Young Child Formula ) promotion in line with national policies.  We have asked why the Commission cannot make it clear that only the courts can decide whether national measures are justified.  We have been told this is ‘historical.’  

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT/Climate change: The proposals fail to consider the environmental impact of formula production and the fact that the  protection of breastfeeding should be included as part of a package of measures to conserve carbon and water..  
  • 800 litres of water needed to make a litreof milk
  • 4700 litresof water per kilo of milk powder

Formula for Disaster

For links to EU data  CLICK HERE

INEQUALITIES:  Europe is not a paradise for all:

• 120 m Europeans at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
• 22%  of EU population have access to water with lower compliance.
• Infants and young children at greatest risk of water-related disease
• Contaminated water and inadequate sanitation have a wide range of health effects in Europe
• Diarrhoeaattributable to poor water and sanitation is estimated to account for over 5% of all deaths in European children  0–14
• Chemical pollution is often localized but may also have a significant impact on health.
• Climate change, extreme weather and floods  will increase the risk of food- and water-borne diseases in many parts of Europe.
SUGAR:The Commission has promised to ask EFSA to look at the sugar levels in baby foods,  but there is no explanation why this process can’t be started NOW (and why they can’t also look at the risks of sugar in YOUNG CHILD FORMULAS.)
GLOBAL IMPACT: The proposed new rules take no account of the global impact of foods exported from the EU, the need to ensure that they are in the right language, or how they will help corporations lobby for weak global trading standards and agreements. While many more people now have better access to drinking water, sanitation and health care, the world is still an unequal place: 2.5 billion – more than one third of the world’s population – still have totally inadequate sanitation.Artificial feeding of an infant instead of breastfeeding in such settings can literally mean the difference between life and death.

WHO: At a meeting with the EU Commission in February. Dr Joao Breda of WHO highlighted the need for sound evidence in relation to the sugar content in baby foods and the  controls on marketing in line with the WHO set of Recommendations on Marketing of Foods High in Fat, Sugar and Salt to Children, adopted by the World health Assembly. He also stressed the importance of Member States being able to follow the International Code of Marketing of Breast milk substitutes and resolutions and their own health policies. He warned that  ” If some operators would  use  branding in a way that confuses mothers, particularly the least educated ones, then this could  result in a step backwards that would increase health inequalities in Europe and would affect member states and WHO efforts to combat childhood obesity and other child health problems.”

.Patti Rundall of Baby Milk Action- IBFAN UK said:  “If these proposals go ahead unchanged they can only bring discredit to the EU, a region that prides itself on its high levels of health safety and consumer protection, human rights and sensitivity to the developing world. Advertising of breastmilk substitutes and sweet processed foods for young babies flies in the face of all health recommendations and conflicts with national health priorities and policies of many EU countries.”

Keith Taylor’s question:

In August 2014, EFSA updated its opinion on the essential composition of infant and follow-on formula, in which it proposes an almost identical composition of infant formula and follow-on formula. In the view of the EFSA opinion, and considering that the Commission is currently working on a delegated act as regards infant formula and follow-on formula: 1) Is the Commission considering extending the advertising restrictions that apply to infant formula to follow-on-formula, and if not, how will the Commission provide Member States with legal certainty that they can adopt stricter rules on advertising? 2) Will the Commission ask EFSA to evaluate potential risks of high sugar levels in baby foods and young child formula, including effects on levels of childhood obesity and on the developing taste palates of children? 3) Will the Commission ensure that the suitability of any new ingredient added to infant and follow-on formula needs to demonstrated by appropriate, independently funded and reviewed studies, and that the addition of any ingredient needs to undergo a pre-market-approval process?

EFSA opinion:


Daciana Sarbu’s question:

 The Commission is currently consulting and preparing a report on the issue of milk based drinks for young children. The Commission’s report will be partly informed by the 2013 report by the European Food Safety Authority on the same subject, which looked at nutritent requirements and recommendations, including energy intake.1 EFSA’s report warned that “observed average energy intakes in infants and young children living in Europe are generally above the AR (average requirement)” and that “energy intakes above requirements will lead to an unfavourable gain in body mass.” However, it did not draw any conclusions specifically on sugar levels in milk-based drinks for young children and how they could contribute to the rising levels of childhood obesity and developing tastes palates of children. Given the childhood obesity crisis, and the importance of developing healthy lifestyle behaviours in children, will the Commission ask EFSA to report specifically on sugar levels in milk-based drinks for young children? Will the Commission consider the effect of sugar levels in milk based drinks and how they could contribute to the excess energy intake which, as EFSA warns, is already leading to “an unfavourable gain in body mass”? Will the Commission also ask EFSA to report on sugar levels in baby foods (such as processed cereal-based foods)?


CLICK HERE for BFLG briefing

Click Here for Press release 24.2.15

For more information contact:

UK: IBFAN: Patti Rundall:  +44 7786 523493   Mike First Steps Nutrition Trust: Helen Crawley:

Luxembourg: Maryse Arendt:

Portugal: Jacqueline de Montaigne

Netherlands: Caroline Kruger:

Belgium:  Gerd van Kogelenberg:

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