Ask Amma

Truth and Lies in Baby Food Advertising

In Call to Action on 4 September 2012 at 3:21 pm

Dear friends, we have talked about food security, food traditions and the rise of industrial food, packaged food, food-substitutes.  Often these are based on false advertising, unverified health claims, pseudo-science or violation of advertising standards.  This is true not only in India but around the world – but in countries where regulations are regularly updated and enforced, these ads are challenged and in some cases banned.  

Readers, now is the time to collect every specimen you can find of advertisements and promotions for “baby food.”  This includes 

  • breastmilk substitutes – infant formula
  • complementary food substitutes  – other powders and edible food-like substances that are marketed for young children in lieu of breastmilk and solid food.

What you need to do:  Find these ads in any language and submit them to Nupur Bidla at

who will present on this issue at the World Breastfeeding Conference taking place in Delhi this December.   Deadline is Sept 20.

While we will try to collect as many as we can from India, but please note that this is a GLOBAL conference – the ads may be from ANY COUNTRY.  

You may use the attached Submission Form to indicate where the ad appeared and what inappropriate content was included.

Just in case you are curious:

Marketing of infant milk substitutes is governed by the IMS Act 2003
Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods.  Its points are summarised by the infant milk industry here.

Advertisements for the edible-food-like substitute, Horlicks, was banned from airing in the UK because of its unverified claims to increase children’s height, strength and brain power.    
 Ban for Horlicks and noodle ads
TV ads banned for being ‘too strong’  

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of UK commented:

“The health and nutritional claims made by GSK and Nestle may be allowed in other parts of the world, but they breach the strict rules in the UK and we have seen no evidence to substantiate them,” he said. 

Yet these ads continue to air unchallenged in India today.  

I hope that this effort to document the appearance of these ads will encourage more fact-checking and will compel the government to enforce standards for advertising in India.

Deadline is 20 Sept 2012.  Please use the attached form to send in the copies of ads that you find.  A sample ad with the inappropriate claims highlighted is included in the form. 

Many of you have asked me how we can fight false advertising of the packaged food and food-substitute industry.  Please let us make use of this invitation from the World Breastfeeding Conference. 

enclosed:  Letter from Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India Member (cover letter to submission form)

Dear Friends,

Greetings from BPNI!

There is good news for you!!

Deadline for Submitting your entry for the “ATLAS of Baby Food Promotion” has been extended.

Now you can submit /report your contribution by 20th of September 2012.

To send  your entry  please click here to see the guidelines.

We wish you could be a part of this historical Atlas, we would be happy to hear from you through a confirmation mail.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Arun Gupta MD FIAP
Regional Coordinator IBFAN Asia,
Member, Prime Minister’s Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges,
Phone 91-9899676306

  1. […] as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and the Maternity Benefits Act.  We must also protest false advertising that undermines real food and breastfeeding. In a world that increasingly devalues women, […]


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