Two new studies from the World Health Organization say that many baby foods are improperly marketed as suitable for infants under the age of six months, and that many of these foods also contain inappropriately high levels of sugar.

WHO recommends that children should be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months.  Guidance issued by WHO in 2016 states that baby food should not be advertised as suitable for infants who are under 6 months of age.

“Good nutrition in infancy and early childhood remains key to ensuring optimal child growth and development, and to better health outcomes later in life – including the prevention of overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases," said WHO Regional Director for Europe Zsuzsanna Jakab. 

WHO has issued extensive guidance on the advertising of baby foods.  Some of the key recommendations include: 

  • Advertising should include statements about the importance of breastfeeding for up to two years and not introducing other foods before six months;
  • Advertising should include the appropriate age of introduction for the advertised food; 
  • Advertising should use language that is easily understood by parents and caregivers; 
  • Advertising should not include any text, image, or other representation that suggests that the food is appropriate for infants under six months old or that discourages breastfeeding or suggests that the food is equivalent or superior to breast milk; 
  • Advertising should not promote bottle feeding; and
  • Advertising should not include any misleading endorsements.

This is important guidance to keep in mind when developing marketing materials for baby foods.  It will also be interesting to see whether, as a result of these new findings, additional countries increase their focus on these issues.