Labour MEP hails EU plan for rules on baby formula
EUROPEAN UNION plans to introduce tougher rules on labelling baby formula and food for people with special medical needs represent good news for consumers, according to Labour MEP Nessa Childers.
Under the proposals adopted by the European Parliament, pictures of babies or images that “idealise” the use of the product would be banned on the packaging of formula milk.
A review is also to be carried out of the legal situation of “follow-on” formula milk products aimed at children aged from 12 months to 36 months, after which tighter rules on the marketing of these products may be introduced.
Ms Childers said the new rules were very welcome. “Parents need to be confident and have good information when buying food for babies, in particular milk-based products. We cannot allow parents to be misled. Babies’ health is too important to be left in the hands of a multinational company’s marketing department.”
She expressed disappointment that MEPs did not support a full restriction on the advertising of follow-on infant formula.
Baby Milk Action, a UK charity which advocated controls on the baby milk industry, also welcomed the changes but said the EU was still a long way from meeting its obligations under international agreements. “Labels are important, they are just one part of the problem. It is essential that the advertising and targeting of pregnant women and parents is curbed,” said policy director Patti Rundall.
The legislation, which is still subject to negotiation with the European Council, also covers gluten intolerance and some low-calorie diets. Food products intended for people with gluten intolerance should contain less than 100mg of gluten per kilogram and may be labelled as having “very low gluten content”. Those containing less than 20mg of gluten per kg may be labelled “gluten free”.
MEPs want the European Commission to prepare a study addressing the lack of specific rules for lactose intolerance and also expressed concern at the growing number of slimming claims made on food product labels.
The new rules should cover energy-restricted diets designed to replace a person’s daily food intake or strict diets for obese people. These include “low-calorie diets” (800-1,200 calories per day) and “very low-calorie diets” (400-800 calories).
Ireland is a world leader in the production of infant formula, accounting for 20 per cent of world output. Three of the top five manufactures – Danone, Wyeth and Abbott – have production facilities here and the sector employs 1,100 people.