THE European Union will allow the use of "unproven" claims that infant formula milk is as healthy for babies as breast feeding despite fears from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and MEPs that it could mislead mothers.
There was anger yesterday after the European Parliament failed by eight votes to muster enough support to prevent a claim that formula milk can improve a baby's eyesight.
EU food regulators ruled that manufacturer Mead Johnson is permitted to claim that an omega fatty acid, DHA, added to formula milk "contributed to the visual development of infants up to 12 months of age".
The controversial product, Lipil, is on sale in Britain labelled with the logo of a child's eye and the words "proven to support visual development".
DHA is found in breast milk and is recognised as "necessary for growth and maturation of the brain and retina", according to health experts. But the same claim for the synthetic version used in formula milk is disputed by experts, who fear it could mislead mothers.
The WHO told MEPs that "no solid evidence exists to say that adding DHA to infant formula will have important clinical benefits. General promotion of these products may induce mothers to use infant formula in the first six months and/or stop continued breastfeeding after this period."
UNICEF also predicted that allowing the claims would "undermine" efforts to promote breastfeeding. (© Daily Telegraph, London)