Danone promotion of its Cow & Gate brand of baby milk in ASDA has been brought to Baby Milk Action’s attention.
We are communicating with ASDA about the promotion and the misleading claims being used in it. Curiously, ASDA told us it was unaware of the promotion and we encouraged management to investigate and take action. The promotion has appeared on table displays in the ASDA café, on shelf-talkers next to products and in leaflets promoting a “Baby and Toddler Event” currently taking place in ASDA stores. People are encouraged to put questions to ASDA pharmacy staff. They are also encouraged to visit ASDA’s “Baby and Toddler Club” website, though a disclaimer states no responsibility is taken for the accuracy of the information provided.
ASDA has told us: “We are looking into your concerns.”
Please check in your local ASDA and other stores for evidence of this and other baby milk promotions and send this to me at Baby Milk Action: firstname.lastname@example.org – Order Baby Milk Action’s monitoring kit (including “spot it – report it” cards to help with your monitoring – click here.
We learned on 4 February that ASDA has special displays in store making claims for Cow & Gate “growing-up milks” (example left in the café in the ASDA Cannock store). We contacted ASDA’s press office. ASDA replied: “We are not aware of any point of sale specifically stating ‘2 beakers a day provides hard-to-get nutrients. Vitamin D. Omega 3. Iron’ as you outline in your email.”
Claimed benefits for added nutrients in formulas and so-called growing-up milks are misleading. Parents who buy growing-up milks should be aware that these products are an unnecessary expense and also potentially harmful.
The European Food Safety Authority expert opinion on growing-up milks states:
“No unique role of young-child formulae with respect to the provision of critical nutrients in the diet of infants and young children living in Europe can be identified, so that they cannot be considered as a necessity to satisfy the nutritional requirements of young children when compared with other foods that may be included in the normal diet of young children (such as breast milk, infant formulae, follow-on formulae and cow’s milk).”
According to the Department of Health (NHS website)
“Follow-on milks are available for babies over six months but there is no need to change over to these. Cows’ milk can be mixed with food from six months and whole cows’ milk can be given as a drink from one year.”
It is, therefore, highly misleading to imply that such milks are required to obtain “hard-to-get nutrients”.
ASDA is also promoting the milks with these claims as part of a “baby and toddler event”. The example below is from Lower Earley, Reading.
Shelf-talkers also promote the milks. In ASDA, Lower Earley, Reading, these are displayed next to the infant formula, which is prohibited by the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007). These state that there should be “no promotional activity to induce the sale of an infant formula.” The Guidance Notes to the law say that shelf-talkers should not be displayed next to infant formula.
The above photograph also shows how ASDA displays the infant formula and follow-on formula next to each other on the shelf. However, the Guidance Notes to the law state: “Follow-on formula should be located at a different part of the store to infant formula. If this is not possible they should be clearly separated in physical location.” This is to stop promotion for follow-on formula being used to promote infant formula; it is illegal to promote infant formula.
The World Health Organisation has also said that follow-on milks and growing-up milks are simply not necessary – click here for our press release. We might add, they are therefore a waste of money and a cynical rip off, exploiting the wish of every parent to do the best for their child.
There are also concerns about possible health risks of such milks. The First Steps Nutrition Trust, which has analysed the claims made for these milks, states:
“Fortified milks are frequently high in sugar and are likely to contribute to higher energy intakes, which may contribute to chronic disease, and the voluntary fortification of foods and drinks needs to be questioned as there is increasing evidence that giving additional nutrients to those who do not need them may have adverse consequences.”
Baby Milk Action won a case before the Advertising Standards Authority, published last week (29 January 2014), against misleading advertising by Danone regarding its Cow & Gate follow-on formula and supposed benefits of ingredients, including calcium and iron. ASDA was dismissive of this, even though it said it was unaware of the above promotion, telling us: “the claims made on the point of sale are not the same as those that were subject to the ASA ruling.”
They may not be exactly the same wording, but are still misleading in implying these milks are necessary to provide“hard-to-get nutrients”.
Given the above facts, we asked ASDA press office for a public comment regarding the misleading promotion that is currently taking place in its stores. Specifically we asked it:
1. Is ASDA aware of the Danone Cow & Gate promotion taking place in its stores?
ASDA press office told us on 6 February: “We are not aware of any point of sale specifically stating ‘2 beakers a day provides hard-to-get nutrients. Vitamin D. Omega 3. Iron’ as you outline in your email.”
In addition to the displays on tables, we have been sent a scan of a leaflet from the ASDA pharmacy.
The reverse of the leaflet encourages parents to visit the ASDA Pharmacy for “Baby & Infant Nutrition advice” and states:
“We know feeding your baby the right nutrients is one of the most important things for new mums. At Asda we have trained all of our Pharmacists to give advice on baby and infant nutrition, so why not drop in and talk to your local Asda Pharmacist when you’re next in store.”
Parents are also encouraged to join the ASDA Baby and Toddler club. This states: “Nutrition for mum and little one: Use this trusted resource for nutrition and feeding advice from pre-pregnancy to pre-school.”
But is it such a trusted resource when the disclaimer at the bottom of the page says:
“Disclaimer: All content, including but not limited to, recipe and dietary information provided herein, is for educational purposes only. It is provided ‘as is’ and as such, the accuracy of same is not warranted in any way… Neither Triad Retail Media UK Limited nor its publisher make any representations as to the accuracy or efficacy of the information provided nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.”
Contrast this with NHS Choices, which states:
“Accuracy: NHS Choices content will be accurate, balanced and transparent. Information given will be based on the best available scientific evidence and data sources. Where content contains conjecture or opinion, this will be clearly indicated.”
So an additional question: “Can ASDA confirm who has trained these staff and whether they will be suggesting growing-up milks should be used to provide Vitamin D, Omega 3 and Iron?”
We are still waiting for answers to the following questions.
2. Did ASDA give prior approval for the promotion and the materials to be used?
3. Does ASDA accept joint responsibility for the misleading nature of this promotional campaign and possible harmful effects in infants and young children fed on the milks as a result of it?
4. How long will ASDA allow the promotion to continue in its stores?
ASDA tells us that other Point-of-Sale materials were removed last week and we have asked for a copy of these.
Members of the public have reported other concerns about promotions at ASDA stores, such as Cow & Gate infant formula being sold at discount, which is prohibited by UK law (shot below from the Hot Deals UK website) and follow-on formula being sold for just 2 pence. Please check in your local ASDA and other stores for evidence of this and other baby milk promotions and send this to me at Baby Milk Action:email@example.com