A major battle between health groups and the food industry is set to play out in the European Parliament after Euro-MPs voted to block claims by baby milk manufacturers that their follow-on formulas improve babies’ eyesight.Labour’s Glenis Willmott is questioning an EU decision to approve the marketing claim that a fatty acid called DHA will improve an infant’s eyesight when it is included in some formula baby milk products and baby food.
A resolution challenging that decision was backed today (Wednesday) in a tight vote in the European Parliament’s Environment and Public Health Committee by 30 votes to 28.
Medical opinion is divided on whether DHA really does help a child’s vision when delivered via the bottle and many health groups and doctors’ organisations have been calling on MEPs to use their scrutiny powers to block the claim.
The resolution will now be put to a full vote of the European Parliament in the first week of April. If it is backed by the majority of MEPs then the claim will not be allowed.
There has been intense activity on the issue in Brussels, with industry lobbyists pushing hard in an attempt to stop MEPs from challenging the claim.
Speaking after the vote, Glenis Willmott explained why she is leading this challenge: “There simply isn’t scientific consensus on whether DHA in formula baby milk will actually deliver benefits to a child. Baby milk is a very special product and we can’t allow parents to be misled or confused.
“Many of the medical professionals who I have been in touch with believe that the pressure for this decision is coming from the industry in its bid to sell more of its products. A lot of medical people are deeply concerned about this health claim.”
Despite support for Glenis Willmott’s position from many health organisations, many on the right of the European Parliament, including Conservative MEPs, are backing the industry position.
Glenis Willmott originally raised her objection to the decision in January and the final vote by MEPs is expected to take place in the week commencing 4 April, with the result expected to be tight.
People who are concerned about the issue can contact their MEP via www.WriteToThem.com