Health retailer Boots has been found to break advertising rules after promoting four brands of infant milk, the UK watchdog has ruled. At present, UK law states it is against the law to advertise infant formula for babies up to six months because it might discourage breastfeeding.
Boots apologised and said the adverts, which were seen on Google and were automated, have been removed. The ruling comes after supermarket Iceland called for changes to laws on formula milk advertising earlier this month.
At present the Advertising Standards Authority states that “except for those in a scientific publication or, for the purpose of trade before the retail stage, a publication of which the intended readers are not the general public, marketing communications for infant formula are prohibited.” However, according to the ASA website, the rules are currently under review.
Boots apologised for the error that had led to the ads appearing and said they were changing their digital marketing process to ensure it did not happen again.
According to the ASA website, Boots displayed Aptamil 1 First Baby Milk Formula Powder From Birth, Hipp Organic 1 First Infant Baby Milk Powder From Birth, Kendaml [sic] First Infant Ready To Feed From Birth Milk and Cow & Gate 1 First Baby Milk Formula Powder From Birth. All of the ads featured images of the packaging for the respective products.
A spokesperson for the Baby Feeding Law Group said that these legal marketing restrictions are intended to protect parents and carers from “undue commercial influence”.
“There is a wealth of evidence that marketing undermines breastfeeding and safe and appropriate formula feeding. The regulations are not designed to limit access to infant formula, it is the manufacturers and retailers who set prices, and who do so in a manner which ensures high-profit margins,” the group added.