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Baby pics to be banned from infant food packaging

New EU laws are to help encourage breastfeeding and were welcomed by one Irish MEP.

Image: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Press Association Images

PHOTOGRAPHS OF BABIES will not be allowed to appear on packaged milks and foods for infants under new EU legislation.

The new rules are on the labelling and content of baby milks and foods for special medical purposes, and the laws are to ensure they are better defined in order to protect consumers. They are also to help people distinguish more clearly between foods for normal consumption and foods for specific groups.

The draft law was voted on yesterday and according to the office of Irish MEP Nessa Childers:

the agreed text stipulates that, in future, the labelling of milk-based preparations for babies up to the age of 12 months (including follow-on formula) will not include any pictures of infants or other pictures intended to “idealise” the use of such preparations, with the aim of ensuring that breast-feeding is not discouraged.

However, graphic representations intended for easy identification of the formula and for illustrating methods of preparation will still be permitted.

The EU Parliament had invited the EU Commission to clarify the “complex legal situation” of milks intended for children aged 12 to 36 months, which are also called “growing-up milks” or “toddlers’ milks”,  and to propose specific legislation if necessary.

Parliament asked the commission to evaluate whether “growing-up milks” really have “any nutritional benefits when compared to a normal diet for a child who is being weaned”.

Childers has welcomed the new legislation voted through in Strasbourg.

These new rules promoting and labelling food for babies are very welcome. Parents need to be confident and have reliable information when buying food for their babies, in particular milk-based products.

She said that “we cannot allow parents to be misled. Babies’ health is too important to be left in the hands of a multinational company’s marketing department”.

After much tough negotiating by MEPs with national governments, the Parliament won a victory to extend labelling restrictions which currently apply to infant formula, to follow-on formula. Using pictures of infants will not be permitted on either infant or follow-on formula.

According to Childers, the legislation is something that will be “widely welcomed because sometimes health claims were made for baby food and formulae which could be misleading to some parents”.

Infants

The rapporteur, Frédérique Ries (ADLE, BE), said:

Infants, young children and seriously ill people are clearly not consumers like any others and it is our duty as legislator to fix stricter rules to govern, for example, the composition and labelling of foodstuffs intended for them .

But she said that on the other hand, “it is also important to establish order in the jungle of food products, by abolishing the concept of dietetic food cannibalised by marketing tools”.

The new legislation simplifies and clarifies the rules on the labelling and the composition of infant formula and follow-on formula, processed cereal-based food, food for special medical purposes and total diet replacement for weight control.

It also includes an exclusive list of substances such as vitamins and minerals that can be added to these foods. The commission is asked to ensure that pesticide residues in these products are reduced to a minimum.

Some of the provisions in the new regulation (articles 11, 16, 18 and 19) will apply from the twentieth day following publication in the Official Journal of the EU.

Read: Iodine deficiency during pregnancy could adversely affect children’s mental development>

Read: More breastfeeding needed to tackle obesity in children and adults>

Read: National Breastfeeding Week: Irish breastfeeding rates below European neighbours’>

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