Poorly substantiated health claims on infant formulaBMJ 2023; 380 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.p310 (Published 15 February 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;380:p310
- Nigel Rollins, scientist
- Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
Early infant feeding is critically important for the survival, development, and lifelong health of children. It is also a big business. In 2019, global sales of infant formula milks exceeded $55bn (£45bn; €51bn). Even during the global economic crisis of 2008-09, sales of commercial milk formulas increased 8-9% year on year.1 Parents want to give their children the best start in life and understand that how they feed their infants contributes to those early health and development outcomes. The formula milk industry understands this too.
The linked study by Cheung and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj-2022-071075) reports a survey conducted in 15 countries exploring the health and nutrition claims made in the marketing of infant formula products.2 The authors performed a systematic search of websites, examined packaging of formula products, and documented claims made about the formula product and citations of scientific evidence supporting those claims. The most common claims were that formula products support brain development, strengthen healthy immune systems, help growth and development, …