We’re all familiar with the marketing and ‘educational’ efforts of some baby milk formula suppliers to encourage mothers in developing countries to start using their products (and so stop breastfeeding).
But this type of subtle pressure goes on here, too. SMA Nutrition, part of Wyeth, and one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of baby milk formula, has been fined £60,000, including costs, after being convicted of six separate breaches of illegal advertising direct to consumers.
Advertisements for formula for babies up to the age of six months can be advertised only in scientific and trade journals, or in publications not widely circulated to the public.
SMA was found guilty of advertising infant formula in Prima Baby, Practical Parenting, Mother and Baby, Pregnancy and Healthy Happy Pregnancy magazines.
The company said the advertisement was an information piece, although the article stressed the importance of four ingredients that were found only in its own product, SMA Gold. Readers were also encouraged to contact the SMA ‘helpline’, which would have put consumers in direct contact with company employees, which is also forbidden under UK law.
Judge Rod Ross, sitting at Birmingham Magistrates Court, described the company’s actions as ‘cynical and deliberate’.