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Sarah Francis's picture

It simply isn't right to take advantage of new parents when they're vulnerable.

But baby formula companies are doing just that.  And this is especially wrong because empty infant formula advertising claims undermine evidence-based messages like "breastfeeding is best for babies."  This has got to be fixed, and we have a chance right now to change the way these infant formula companies and other food manufacturers do business so that parents get the facts, and not just empty hype on labels.

“All parents want what's best for their babies, and we want them to feel empowered to make an informed feeding decision at one of the most vulnerable and precious times of their lives—the birth of a new baby,” explains Megan Renner, Executive Director of the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC). "The marketing of artificial infant formula has been shown to undermine breastfeeding intention and success. Independent review of ‘functional ingredients’ will go a long way towards providing parents with the information they have a right to receive.”

Right now we have a chance to stop empty hype on formula labels.

Congress is debating the renewal of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) through the Child Nutrition Act. As the re-authorization of the Child Nutrition Act moves through the Senate, we're urging Senators to also include a review of the “functional ingredients” in baby formula and other foods WIC offers. Functional ingredients are things like prebiotics, nucleotides, and others ingredients that are marketed as improving a baby’s health. Companies add these “functional ingredients” as a way to command higher prices and make catchy health claims. Initial independent studies have shown very mixed results as to whether so-called “functional ingredients” actually do anything for the health of our kids.

Our federal government carries enormous weight in this formula fiasco because half of all U.S. infants participate in the WIC program.[2] WIC’s mission is to provide healthy foods, breastfeeding support and nutrition counseling to low-income pregnant women, infants, and young kids. To that end, WIC gives vouchers for specific foods that qualifying families can use in their local grocery stores.

The government has estimated that these “functional ingredients” cost WIC $91 million annually. Meanwhile, front-line WIC providers, who work hard to promote and support breastfeeding, are very concerned that moms are increasingly asking WIC for the formula “that’s just like breastmilk.” And that’s why it’s so important for USDA to get expert advice based on an independent, systematic review of the research, which will be published for all consumers to see.  An independent review of "functional ingredients" could save the taxpayers and the average new parent a lot of money.

Unfortunately, we’re up against the formula companies in this fight, and as you can imagine they’re pretty powerful. That’s why as parents we need to be even louder!

Join me and tell tell your Senator that the Child Nutrition Act should include independent scientific reviews of formula and other foods so parents can make the best choices for their infants:

Together we can be a powerful voice for moms and families.

P.S. Thanks to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Center for Science and the Public Interest for all the great work they do on this issue

P.P.S. Check out what the California WIC Association is doing to improve breastfeeding policies.

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