Call for baby milk ad ban

MPs urge Govt to back 'breast is best' lobby by banning all formula baby milk ads.

Thirty-seven MPs have signed a Commons motion urging the Government to ban the advertising of all formula baby milk.

The MPs want ministers to use an upcoming review of the rules to bow to demands from the breastfeeding lobby.

Campaigners say UK baby milk-makers spent £7.6 million marketing their products in 2006/07 - ten times the total the Government spent on promoting breastfeeding.

In 1995, the advertising of first-stage formula milk was banned by the Government, but a loophole in the law does allow the promotion of "follow-on" milk.

The MPs called on the Department of Health to implement an international code, passed by the World Health Assembly in 1981, "to protect babies' health and parents' rights to impartial information by prohibiting the advertising of infant formula".

The motion has been tabled by the Labour MP Harry Cohen, and has been backed by 23 other Labour MPs, eight Liberal Democrats, three Tories and two from other parties. They are concerned Britain has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in Europe.

The Government says it is committed to the promotion of breastfeeding, but critics accuse it of not doing enough to protect parents from "aggressive marketing tactics" by milk manufacturers.

"Breast is best" campaigners claim artificial milk makes children more prone to illnesses such as gastroenteritis. They say a 10 per cent rise in breastfeeding rates in England would save the NHS more than £5 million a year by reducing major infant diseases.

The Public Health Minister, Dawn Primarolo, is due to make a decision on a European Commission directive over formula milk promotion.

- Perspective, page 21.