Baby milk should be supplied in plain packaging because marketing can exploit parents, WHO warns
- Experts says industry is using packaging to promote brands at inflated prices
- Direct advertising to parents of babies under six months old is banned in the UK
- This does not prevent companies from making marketing claims on packaging
Formula milk should be sold in plain packaging to stop parents being exploited by marketing, the World Health Organization has said.
Experts from the global health body said the industry was using packaging to promote brands at inflated prices.
The direct advertising of formula milk to parents of babies under six months old is banned in the UK but this does not prevent companies from making marketing claims on packaging.
Experts from the global health body said the industry was using packaging to promote brands at inflated prices
WHO scientist Dr Nigel Rollins told the Unicef UK Baby Friendly annual conference that packaging for more expensive formula milks typically featured phrases such as ‘premium’ and ‘specially formulated’, giving the impression they were of a higher quality than others, which meant brands could charge higher prices.
‘Exploitative’ claims included words like ‘sensitive’ or ‘comforting’, to suggest the product would calm crying babies.
In fact, by law, all baby formula must include a set mix of nutrients.
Elizabeth Duff, of the parenthood charity NCT, said: ‘Parents shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for not choosing the most expensive brand on the supermarket shelves. This is irresponsible marketing that preys on well-intentioned parents who want the best for their baby.
‘Plainer packaging for all formulas could reinforce the message that different brands are essentially the same.’
It would be up to individual governments to implement any plain packaging legislation. A similar system of plain packaging was introduced for cigarettes in the UK in 2017.
The British Specialist Nutrition Association, which represents the industry, said: ‘We need to support parents with factual nutritional information… so that they can make the right decision for them. It’s a responsibility we take seriously.’