Magazine adverts for follow-on formula containing prebiotics and omega-3s have been rapped in the UK for making brain health claims unauthorised by the European Union nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR).
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told UK firm, HiPP Organic, its ads must be amended because, while omega-3-infant development claims had won positive opinions from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), these had not been adopted into EU law, and so could not yet be drawn upon.
Given no such claim was authorised in the UK before January 19, 2007 (when the NHCR became active), it could not therefore gain transitional status until any EFSA opinion became EU law.
In addition, the ASA found the EFSA opinion HiPP Organic referenced, along with other supportive data, was for formulations that were sufficiently different to HiPP’s own, and therefore not directly supportive.
“We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading,” it wrote in its judgement.
In its defence, HiPP submitted a summary of omega-3 claims that had been assessed by EFSA and a list of claims in the area being used in other countries. They noted omega-3 form ALA (alpha linoleic acid) was an essential nutrient for all age groups, including infants.
HiPP pointed out that its claim related solely to the role of ALA in normal and healthy development of the brain and nervous system tissues and not specifically mental performance.
But the ASA said the evidence was not strong enough for the baby age group the ad targeted and that the dosage was not proven to be sufficient to deliver the stated benefit.
But it did find that HiPP’s advertisement did not imply the product was equivalent to breast milk, and therefore not in breach of infant formula rules despite stating: "We've learnt from the breast".
But it contained the disclaimer: "…Breastfeeding is best for babies. HiPP Organic Follow on milks are intended for use after 6 months of age as part of a mixed diet and should not be used as a breastmilk substitute before this age. Use on the advice of a healthcare professional …"
HiPP’s ad in part started: "essential Omega 3 fatty acids … for healthy brain and nervous system development".
In addition, the "unique mix of prebiotic oligosaccharides" supported, "the growth of good bacteria in your baby's tummy and promote comfortable digestion."