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Scientific and factual? A review of breastmilk substitute advertising to healthcare professionals

22nd July 2016

International, EU and national regulations allow manufacturers of breastmilk substitutes to advertise their products to healthcare professionals providing the information is ‘scientific and factual’. There is, however, no mechanism to challenge whether adverts are in fact ‘scientific and factual’ in their content and presentation.

Manufacturers of breastmilk substitutes advertise their products to healthcare professionals in magazines, through company representatives’ information, healthcare professional websites, at study days and via helplines. Many of the claims made by manufacturers are, however, not accepted by scientific bodies, the evidence may be weak or non-existent and it may relate to a product other than that being advertised.  This may mislead healthcare professionals.

This resource, from First Steps Nutrition, aims to unpack some of the adverts that have recently been placed in magazines aimed at healthcare professionals, to show why everyone needs to be extremely vigilant before accepting the claims and information provided.

This resource was written by Dr Helen Crawley and Susan Westland.  First Steps Nutrition Trust is a charity which provides evidence-based and independent information and support for good nutrition from pre-conception to five years of age.