Omega-3 baby brain food ads pulled in UK

Magazine adverts for follow-on formula containing prebiotic and omega-3s are in hot water in the UK due to making brain health claims unauthorised by the European Union Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (NHCR).

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) admonished the UK firm, HiPP Organic, that its ads must be changed due to omega-3-infant development claims not being adopted into EU law even though they had won positive opinions from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Given no such claim was authorised in the UK when the NHCR became active on January 19, 2007, it could not therefore gain transitional status until any EFSA opinion became EU law.

Moreover, 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 stated 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 to mental performance.

However, 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.

It was discovered though 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.”

It contained the disclaimer saying: “…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 stated: “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.”

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