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
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

    £37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

    Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

    £25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

    £16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea