10 November 2016

Health Claims

'Health and nutrition content claims on websites advertising infant formula available in Australia: A content analysis' by Nina J. Berry and Karleen D. Gribble in the latest Maternal and Child Nutrition comments
The use of health and nutrition content claims in infant formula advertising is restricted by many governments in response to WHO policies and WHA resolutions. The purpose of this study was to determine whether such prohibited claims could be observed in Australian websites that advertise infant formula products. A comprehensive internet search was conducted to identify websites that advertise infant formula available for purchase in Australia. Content analysis was used to identify prohibited claims. The coding frame was closely aligned with the provisions of the Australian and New Zealand Food Standard Code, which prohibits these claims. The outcome measures were the presence of health claims, nutrition content claims, or references to the nutritional content of human milk. Web pages advertising 25 unique infant formula products available for purchase in Australia were identified. Every advertisement (100%) contained at least one health claim. Eighteen (72%) also contained at least one nutrition content claim. Three web pages (12%) advertising brands associated with infant formula products referenced the nutritional content of human milk. All of these claims appear in spite of national regulations prohibiting them indicating a failure of monitoring and/or enforcement. Where countries have enacted instruments to prohibit health and other claims in infant formula advertising, the marketing of infant formula must be actively monitored to be effective.
 The authors conclude
Australian manufactures of infant formula are disregarding regulatory prohibitions that apply to the inclusion of health and nutrition content claims in websites advertising their products. This suggests these prohibitions are not effectively enforced, or that sanctions applied do not present a significant disincentive. In order to rectify this situation, resources must be allocated to enforcing existing regulations. Furthermore, attention should be given to the question of whether existing sanctions present meaningful disincentives for non-compliance. Where countries have enacted instruments to prohibit health claims on infant formula, the advertising of these products must be actively monitored if those instruments are to be effective.