Rejoicing in restriction: Industry welcomes stricter rules for infant formula marketing

By Cheryl Tay contact

- Last updated on GMT

Infant formula manufacturers are reportedly pleased with the extended restrictions, according to the NZ Infant Nutrition Council. ©Getty Images
Infant formula manufacturers are reportedly pleased with the extended restrictions, according to the NZ Infant Nutrition Council. ©Getty Images

Related tags: Infant formula, New zealand, Regulation, Advertising

New Zealand's Commerce Commission has granted the Infant Nutrition Council (INC) authorisation to extend advertising and marketing restrictions to include infant formula products for children up to one year of age.

The extension will last for a period of five years, and the restrictions include the advertising of infant formula for children up to a year old, and the distribution of free samples to pregnant women, as well as mothers, other family members, and caregivers of infants

 The Commerce Commission will publish the reasons behind its decision on its website at a later date.

In September, the INC applied to the Commerce Commission to have the restrictions in the former's Code of Practice extended in order to ban the advertising and marketing of infant formula products to parents of children aged one and younger; the previous restrictions had covered only infant formula for children aged six months and younger.

According to INC CEO Jan Carey, its industry members were overwhelmingly supportive of this move despite its seemingly counter-intuitive nature, because "it was the right thing to do"​.

Since then, the Commerce Commission had consulted on its draft determination and determined that the public benefits of extending the restrictions outnumbered any possible negative effects from the resulting reduction in competition.

Chairman Dr Mark Berry said the Commerce Commission believes consumer prices will likely remain the same, even with the implementation of the new measures.

In addition, the Commerce Commission made it clear that this authorisation affected only the marketing and advertising of infant formula products for children up to one year of age, not consumers' options or ability when it came to purchasing such products. They will also still be able to obtain information on such products from healthcare professionals.

A welcome decision

Infant formula manufacturers are reportedly pleased with this development, according to the INC.

Carey said it was a "welcome decision"​ and a "victory for common sense"​, in line with what the INC had been working towards.

She explained that the INC submitted the application to the Commerce Commission despite the restrictions being likely to put a dampener on competition among infant formula manufacturers, because the former expected that the improved health outcomes would outweigh any fallout from reduced competition.

She added that the Commerce Commission had done what the INC had been aiming for all along: prioritise the health of mothers and children.

"Our stance is supported by many public health bodies. It aligns with recent guidance from the World Health Assembly and is consistent with the Ministry of Health's nutrition guidelines for infants.

"Basically, the industry is proactively taking a step to further restrict their marketing practices because it's the right thing to do to support the public health goals that protect and promote breastfeeding.

"Breast milk is the best nutrition for an infant, but where that is not always possible, infant formula is the only suitable substitute."

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