Millions of parents use formula milk in what has become a multibillion-dollar global industry. But a study published in the BMJ has found most health and nutritional claims about the products appear to be backed by little or no high-quality scientific evidence, prompting calls for stricter marketing rules to be introduced worldwide. The study found that existing marketing curbs on formula milk are failing to stop companies from using controversial claims to promote their products.
“The wide range of health and nutrition claims made by infant formula products are often not backed by scientific references,” said Dr Ka Yan Cheung and Loukia Petrou, the joint first co-authors of the study. “When they are, the evidence is often weak and biased.”
Cheung and Petrou, from Imperial College London, added: “It’s essential that the industry provides accurate and reliable information to consumers, rather than using vague or unsupported claims as marketing tools.”
They concluded: “Despite previous attempts to change the landscape of infant formula marketing … progress in regulating infant formula claims is slow. Transparency is still lacking about health and nutrition claims linked to infant formula. We have identified a high prevalence of claims on infant formula products in multiple countries that seem to have little or no scientific substantiation.”