Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Formula milk

Formula adverts have no place in medical journals

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 29 January 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l369
  1. Sarah A Morgan, public health specialty registrar1,
  2. Tony Waterston, retired consultant paediatrician2,
  3. Marko Kerac, programme director, nutrition for global health MSc3
  1. 1CHAM, PO Box 30378, Lilongwe 3, Malawi
  2. 2Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  3. 3London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. dr.s.a.morgan{at}

We welcome the renewed attention that van Tulleken has brought to the important matter of infant formula advertising in medical journals.12 We are especially happy to hear that The BMJ is reviewing its policies on accepting advertising for these products.

We looked at the extent of formula advertising in leading medical and paediatric journals from 2003 to 2012 and at the compliance of 2012 adverts with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Although formula advertising was uncommon overall, it varied markedly and one publishing group was responsible for almost 75% of all formula advertising in our sample—–the BMJ Publishing Group. Code compliance was poor: all adverts contained purely promotional statements, and none contained all the information and warnings about formula stipulated in the code.3

Clinicians need information on formula milks so they can offer advice to the parents of infants who cannot, for whatever reason, be breastfed. But this advice should be evidence based, impartial, and based on information from independent and unbiased sources. Advertisements are none of these. We hope that not only The BMJ, but the wider BMJ group now drops infant formula adverts altogether.


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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