Bid to block baby milk claims fails

An attempt to block approval of claims that a formula baby milk can improve an infant's eyesight was rejected today.

A vote by Euro-MPs in Strasbourg failed to muster enough support to prevent authorisation of a company's controversial statement about the health benefits for infants of a fatty acid called DHA.

DHA - "docosahexanenoic acid" - is found in small amounts in breast milk and has been recognised as a factor in the development of infants' retinas.

But the same boast for the synthesised version of DHA used in formula milk is still hotly contested by some experts who fear it could mislead mothers of infants.

The EU's Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health has already authorised the declaration by American formula milk manufacturer Mead Johnson that "DHA has a structural and functional role in the retina, and DHA intake contributes to the visual development of infants up to 12 months of age."

But Labour MEP Glenis Willmott, who lead today's bid to halt approval, said there should be more consistent independent evidence before authorisation was given.

The European Food Safety Authority has also warned that there is so far insufficient evidence to justify positive eyesight claims about formula milk DHA.

However, the European Commission is poised to confirm authorisation now that MEPs have failed to muster a big enough vote against the move.

Ms Willmott said she would be appealing to the Commission nevertheless to delay approval pending further independent tests on the formula milk.

"Many doctors are still unconvinced about the benefits. They argue that if DHA really is proven to have the same benefits in bottled milk as it does in breast milk then it should be included in all products, not simply left to manufacturers to use as a marketing gimmick. We need to have a proper debate about these issues," she said.

European consumers' organisation BEUC also called for more research.

"Consumers trust marketing claims relating to health and nutrition," said BEUC Director General Monique Goyens.

"It is therefore crucial parents are not misled when trying to make the best choices for their children."

Ms Willmott explained later that a majority of MEPs had voted to block approval - but not by the necessary margin to achieve their aim.

"Today, a majority of this parliament voted against this health claim. MEPs have concluded that scientific consensus simply doesn't exist," she said.

"Yet now manufacturers will be free to target parents with marketing messages that many medical professionals and health organisations believe should not be allowed.

"Parents of young children are a group of consumers who are particularly vulnerable to marketing messages of this kind. Clearly they want to do all they can to give their kids the best start in life. So we have to be extra careful about ensuring they are not misled."

She added: "Clearly, it is a disappointment not to get the number of votes we needed, but this result still sends a strong message that there is deep unease about health claims of this sort.

"Many health professionals have said to me that if DHA really is beneficial in formula milk then it should be required by law to be in all products on sale, not simply left to companies to be used as a marketing tool."

She went on: "It is particularly worrying that the European Commission has seemed resistant to even consider the very valid concerns that have been raised by health and medical organisations.

"The food industry has been lobbying very hard on this claim, not just in the European Parliament over the last few weeks, but targeting the European Commission and scientific establishment for years.

"Health claims are not allowed on normal infant formula milk out of concern that they could be misleading for parents. Many people don't even understand the difference between infant formula and follow-on formula.

"I will be writing to the European Commission to ask for a review of whether health claims on follow-on formula should be allowed."

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

    £16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

    £9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

    Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn