New Zealands tightens marketing restrictions for infant formula
The New Zealand government’s Commerce Commission has authorised the Infant Nutrition Council’s (INC) new Code of Practice incorporating restrictions on advertising and marketing of infant formula for children under six months of age.
The INC is the association for the infant formula industry in Australia and New Zealand. Its membership is comprised of manufacturers, marketers and importers of infant formula.
The INC asked the Commission to authorise its Code under section 58 of the NZ Commerce Act, as restrictions on advertising and marketing may lessen competition. The INC’s authorisation application for its Code of Practice only relates to infant formula for children under six months of age. Other milk formula products, such as follow-on formula and toddlers’ milk, do not form part of the application.
The Code of Practice restricts the advertising and marketing of infant formula by members. It has been in place since 2012 and is consistent with New Zealand’s commitment to the World Health Organisation’s International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes (WHO Code).
After consulting on its draft determination, the Commission found that the public benefits outweigh the likely competitive detriments.
“After considering the feedback from a number of interested parties, the Commission has reached the view that the public benefits arising from higher breastfeeding rates outweigh any lessening of competition from the arrangement,” said Dr Mark Berry, Commerce Commission Chairman. “The prices consumers pay for infant formula are unlikely to be affected,” he said.
The Commission may grant authorisation under section 58 of the Commerce Act for certain agreements that may otherwise breach the Commerce Act, if it is satisfied that the public benefits of the agreements outweigh the detriments arising from the loss of competition. The granting of an authorisation protects the applicant from court action under the Commerce Act by the Commission and private individuals.
Decision welcomed by INC
The INC has welcomed the Commerce Commission’s decision to authorise of the INC’s Code of Practice for marketing infant formula.
INC Chief Executive Jan Carey said the INC applied to the commission for authorisation of the Code to reassure its members that it was the appropriate response in New Zealand to the WHO Code and that they comply with the law.
Ms Carey said the INC “agrees totally” with Dr Berry’s comments about the public benefits arising from higher breastfeeding rates outweighing any lessening of competition from the arrangement.
“That’s why we’re pleased the Code has been authorised,” Ms Carey said.
The Infant Nutrition Council Ltd (INC) is the association for the infant formula industry in Australia and New Zealand. The nearly 30 council members include some of the most respected food companies in the world, and the organisation represents over 95 per cent of the volume of infant formula manufactured, sold and exported in New Zealand. INC plays a key role in ensuring compliance and safety in the industry. All members abide by a Code of Conduct that provides direction on industry issues including the support of breastfeeding, food regulations and standards, food safety issues, and company representatives’ conduct and activities. INC advocates for optimal nutrition for all infants: breastfeeding first, and, when needed, infant formula as the only suitable alternative. INC members include Abbott Nutrition, Aspen Nutritionals, Bayer, Fonterra, HJ Heinz, Nestle, Nutricia. Associate members include Synlait, New Image Group, Westland, and Dairy Goat Co-operative.
Restrictions under the Code of Practice
The Code applies to the marketing of infant formula products suitable for infants up to the age of six months.
- not advertising infant formula
- not distributing gifts or free samples to pregnant mothers or caregivers
- not offering inducements to health professionals to promote infant formula.
These restrictions give effect to the WHO Code, which aims to protect and promote breastfeeding, and to restrict the marketing of breast milk substitutes in ways that would undermine that aim.
Ms Carey said the authorisation of the Code does not mean there will be any further restrictions on the availability of infant formula.
“There will be no change at all to the current restrictions on infant formula marketing or selling in New Zealand, or to the price promotion of infant formula,” Ms Carey said. “I must also stress that mothers and carers still need to make sure they get sufficient information from health practitioners and organisations such as Plunket about formula and feeding their babies in order to make informed decisions,” she said.
“INC believes breastfeeding is best, but that when needed, infant formula is the only suitable alternative,” Ms Carey said.
The New Zealand Code of Practice was developed by INC in consultation with the Ministry of Health and applies to INC-member marketers of infant formula.
Ms Carey said INC is responsible for liaising with and educating the industry sector to ensure the Code is adhered to. She said all health workers and other interested parties were encouraged to be aware of its content.
The Code can be accessed on the INC website infantnutritioncouncil.com