Pakistan authority signals restart of tough infant formula sanctions amid confusion over enforcement dates

By Cheryl Tay contact

- Last updated on GMT

The PFA will resume its action plan against infant formula firms that flout local rules after the business adjustment period, though there is some confusion over the deadline. ©Getty Images
The PFA will resume its action plan against infant formula firms that flout local rules after the business adjustment period, though there is some confusion over the deadline. ©Getty Images

Related tags: Pakistan, Infant formula, Regulation

The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has said it has restarted its action plan against infant formula firms that violate local regulations, ahead of the date previously communicated to industry representatives.

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In early September, the PFA declared it would restart its plan after the business adjustment period, which it said would end on September 20 this year.

its recently appointed director general Muhammad Usman Younas has given the the green light for strict action to be taken against any company that continues to flout the rules after the deadline.

Any infant formula manufacturer that includes the word 'milk', or states or implies on its product packaging that formula is a suitable substitute for human breastmilk will have its stock removed from stores.

The same fate will befall companies that give out free samples of their products to doctors in hospitals. At the same time, Usman has urged the Monitoring and Vigilance Wing to monitor the actions of formula firm employees in hospitals even more closely.

Industry response

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia​, a spokesperson for trade body The Asia Pacific Infant and Young Child Nutrition Association (APIYCNA) — who chose to remain anonymous — said: "The APIYCNA has taken note of the PFA's actions against infant formula violations in the province of Punjab, Pakistan.

"Our members have strict policies in place to comply with relevant local regulations related to the marketing of infant formula products."

However, the spokesperson also disputed the PFA's statement on the conclusion for the business adjustment period, saying, "The APIYCNA secretariat has heard through our own channels that the deadline for the business adjustment period is in January 2019, not on September 20 this year."

Continual clampdown

This is the latest development in the PFA's clampdown on infant formula firms and their activities in Pakistan, which began with a nationwide ban​ on free formula samples and marketing in hospitals in October last year.

In addition to the ban, the PFA also consulted with its Scientific Panel to set stricter standards for imported infant formula products.

This came after the Pakistani government had placed pressure on the PFA to impose more stringent rules on the labelling and sale of infant formula in the country.

As a result, manufacturers can no longer claim that their infant formula products are an "alternative to breastmilk"​, but are instead legally obligated to state that formula "is not a substitute for mother’s milk" ​on their product packaging.

Beyond labelling and marketing, however, the PFA has also taken it upon itself to monitor the types and volume of ingredients in infant formula.

For instance, it dictates that for every 100g of formula, there must be specifically 1.8g to 3.8g of protein — no more, no less.

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