A study published Thursday, February 16, 2023, noted that most of the health benefits promoted for infant formula are not based on any reliable scientific studies, and the researchers who prepared them stressed the need for the relationships of these products to be neutral.
The study was published a week after a series of articles in the scientific journal The Lancet calling for stricter regulations on the infant formula industry. These articles accused the manufacturers of exploiting the fears of new parents in their marketing of their products, by seeking to persuade them not to adopt breastfeeding.
Health authorities, led by the World Health Organization, recommend the adoption of breastfeeding due to its health benefits for children.
Daniel Monblit, Honorary Lecturer at Imperial College London, who co-authored the new study published in the BMJ medical journal, acknowledged that formula should remain an option for mothers who are unable or unwilling to breastfeed.
However, he told AFP, “We strongly oppose inappropriate marketing of infant formula, as it is based on misleading claims that are not supported by any solid evidence,” calling for neutral packaging devoid of such allegations.
Together with a team of multinational researchers, Monblatt scrutinized the health arguments used by the websites of infant formula manufacturers in 15 countries, including the United States, India, Britain and Nigeria, to market 608 products.
These arguments emphasize that these products have benefits for the child’s growth, brain development, and strengthening of his immune system.
However, the study published Thursday noted that half of the products that the researchers examined did not link the alleged health benefits to a specific ingredient, and that three-quarters of these products did not mention any scientific reference attesting to these supposed benefits.
Only 14 percent of the products included in the study were recorded in human clinical trials. However, there is a high probability that 90 percent of these trials were biased, as not all relevant data were mentioned, nor were the results of experiments that were not conducive to marketing the product. According to the study.
The study considered that the most important thing is that 90 percent of these clinical trials are funded by or related to the infant formula manufacturing sector.