MomAgenda

FDA Formula Probe Is Good News for Mothers, Babies

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Food and Drug Administration will be looking into the health claims of infant formulas. Kimberly Seals Allers says it's about time, since these deceptive claims often mislead moms into thinking formula is just as good as breast milk.



Kimberly Seals Allers

(WOMENSENEWS)--The Food and Drug Administration announced earlier this month that it is planning to look into the health claims of infant formulas. I couldn't be happier.

One of the biggest, or should I say latest, of the formula industry's misleading claims is related to omega-3 fatty acids--DHA, in particular--which misleads mothers into thinking formula is just as good as breast milk.

Specifically, the FDA says it wants to: "assess women's understanding of and response to various statements on infant formula labels. The study results will be used to help the agency to understand the role that certain types of statements on infant formula labels have in influencing formula choice . . . The study will focus on purchase choice, perceived similarity of the formula to breast milk and perceived likelihood that the formula has certain health benefits."

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This is great news. For years, infant formula companies have successfully marketed their products as just as good as breast milk without any such evidence. This marketing has been particularly aggressive in the black community. In a recent interview, a lactation consultant told me of a mom who asked for "the formula with breast milk in it." Wow!

No such thing actually exists, but it highlights the dangerously successful marketing by deep-pocketed formula companies that leave moms confused about what formula is and isn't.

Having been an intrepid business reporter for many years and a former senior writer at Fortune magazine, I can certainly understand the business dilemma of the formula makers: There is no money to be made from breastfeeding. Plain and simple.

When your No. 1 competition is free, and you can't compete on price, you have to be creative. Really creative. And even misleading.

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