Health claims on baby milk must not be misleading

This week in Strasbourg I discussed my proposal to stop a misleading health claim on formula milk for babies with my Democratic Socialist colleagues and I’m now writing the resolution which could stop the claim in its tracks.

What I’m worried about is a claim that the European Commission has decided can be displayed on follow-on formulas and foods for babies, saying that adding a fatty acid known as DHA to the formula or food improves the vision of babies. DHA is found naturally in breast milk, and, in breast milk, is known to be important in the development of children’s eyes. However, the synthesized DHA which is added to formula milk is different. Formula milk producer Mead Johnson has applied to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for permission to use the health claim, supporting their cause with evidence they have carried out themselves. Much of the decision making has been made behind closed doors by a specialist committee, and we were recently told that the health claim would be allowed.

However, an independent review of all the available evidence on DHA in formula milk in 2008 found that adding DHA to formula milk “had no proven benefit regarding vision, cognition or physical growth”. Furthermore, a recent study found a possible link between being given DHA in formula milk and increased blood pressure later in life. Clearly the scientific basis of the claim needs to be reviewed.

Our children’s health is too important to be left in the hands of a multinational company’s marketing department. If an ingredient is genuinely found to be beneficial and risk free then it should be an obligatory ingredient in all formula milk, and not be used as a marketing ploy by a specific brand.

In order to reverse the decision the resolution I am drafting must be passed by the European Parliament’s Environment and Public Health Committee, and then adopted by a majority of all 736 MEPs. If you agree that we can’t take any chances when it comes to children’s nutrition then please write to all MEPs in your area urging them to back my resolution.

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