Criticism of the proposed online moratorium on infant formula
A Dáil committee recommended a moratorium on the sale of online infant formula ads.
It recommends a ban on online advertising aimed at children, including junk food, alcohol, foods high in fat / salt / sugar, and gambling.
The rules are already in place on TV and radio under the FSAI but this recommendation would extend it to online.
Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard said Live lunch Formula milk does not belong to the same category.
“I think when you put infant formula and the infant formula ban … being advertised online as junk food, alcohol, high fat, salt, all of those issues – even the game – I think it gives up the bad impression of what formula milk actually is.
“I think formula has no comparison with alcohol, junk food or gambling problems.”
He says such a decision would be disrespectful for many people.
“I know there are strict advertising regulations, which have been in place for a long time, and we all realize that the breast is the best.
“But when it comes to putting infant formula in that same category, I think it does a disrespectful service to the industry, to the farms and to the community itself.
“We all know the benefit of the breast is the best, but the real problem here is that we can’t just talk high. [sic] a real product that is needed by a certain proportion of people – or women in particular – that they need because of the circumstances of their lives at the time.
“I just think we need to have a proportionate response, and I don’t think a moratorium – which is an unusual phrase in itself – is appropriate.”
‘Continuation’ of the WHO code
Senator Lombard says an online moratorium on ads for high fat foods and junk food, alcohol and gambling makes sense – but it doesn’t.
“Then we put baby formula on that list… a wall of foods or products.
“I don’t think formula has a place there when you talk about alcohol or junk food.
“If anything, infant formula is a nutritious product that is used by part of society because it needs it for a while.”
TD Social Democrat Jennifer Whitmore has said that while alcohol and infant formula cannot be compared, Ireland has obligations.
“Ireland has adhered to the World Health Organization Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
“And that’s just a continuation of that: you are not allowed in the print or media to advertise infant formula for less than six months.
“Personally, I would like to see this extended beyond six months, because I think what we need to do is help mothers make the choice to breastfeed.
“And I think that support is not available to them – whether in the hospital or when they are leaving the hospital – because there are such resource issues with the HSE when it comes to lactation consultants.
“So I actually think what’s going on in a lot of cases is that the formulas companies are sort of filling that information and support gap left by the government.”
She adds that there is an initiation rate of 64% of women hospitalized, but that this rate “decreases rapidly” thereafter.