Intended for healthcare professionals


Formula milk companies are exploiting legal loopholes, say campaigners

BMJ 2022; 379 doi: (Published 07 December 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;379:o2926
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. Kent

Formula companies are exploiting legal loopholes by selling infant milks that should be available only on prescription and used under medical supervision, infant feeding campaigners have said.

The practice risks damaging infants’ health by increasing the risk of life threatening infections, dental caries, and obesity and leaving parents and carers out of pocket because of high prices.

Babies who are not exclusively breastfed and who have diagnoses of clinical conditions such as an allergy or a metabolic disorder may need a specialised infant milk. These products fall under regulations that govern foods for special medical purposes (FSMP), which are stricter than those for other infant formula or follow-on formula products. However, commercial milk formula manufacturers themselves decide which infant milks are marketed as infant foods for special medical purposes (iFSMP), with little legal oversight, a report from the Baby Feeding Law Group has said.1

This means that some milks, including lactose-free and anti-reflux formulas, are freely available from retailers without medical supervision. Parents may be encouraged to treat their baby with such products rather than seeking medical advice. It also means that those parents of babies with a true clinical need for a product may be being told to buy the products rather than get them on prescription.

“The …

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