Infant and young child feeding is key to improving child survival and promoting healthy growth and development worldwide. Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) strongly recommends breastfeeding as the optimal way of feeding infants, many women cannot or choose not to breastfeed their children. In those cases, parents are faced with an ever-increasing variety of infant milks. Infant milk is the fastest growing packaged food product with 7% annual growth. Our campaign is focused on the lack of scientific underpinning behind the infant milks that these companies put on different markets. While companies claim that their products are informed by the ‘latest developments in nutritional science’, the wide variety of products on sale within and between countries and the efforts of companies to push expensive premium products call such claims into question.
Milking It – How Milk Formula Companies are Putting Profits Before Science
This report represents the first global investigation into infant milks being sold for babies under 12 months old from the four leading companies: Nestlé, Danone, Mead Johnson Nutrition and Abbott. The report analysed more than 400 infant formula products sold across 14 markets and the price differences between them. Despite the fact that the nutritional composition of infant milks is regulated by a global standard, the companies sell a wide range of products that have additional nutrients or ‘better’ ingredients or claim to be solving general conditions, such as preventing allergies or promoting better sleep or respond to general consumer concerns, such as offering GMO-free products. Our research also revealed large disparity in the prices of formula within and between countries. While the same brand of formula can cost 17 USD in the UK, in China the price is 55 USD. This leads to large disparities in family spending of infant feeding; while in Western Europe parents spend 1-3% of average salary on feeding an infant, in China this can be between 15-40%. The report concludes that increasing product differentiation is not science-based, but instead informed by careful research into consumer preferences, guided by a desire to increase manufacturers’ market share and profits.
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