CANADA – Influencing infant feeding decisions with inappropriate labelling & claims

Code Violations
Labelling

ABBOTT

Abbott Laboratories
100 Abbott Park Road
Abbott Park,
Illinois 60064-3500
USA
www.Abbott.com

Claims found on Abbott Similac product labels generally focus on their ‘galactooligosaccharides’, ‘lutein’ and ‘DHA’ content. Similar idealising claims are also often found on the company’s website to promote the products as well. On the product label of Similac Advance Step 1 Ready to use infant formula sold in Quebec, Canada, the following claims are found:-

  • Omega-3 & Omega-6: DHA & ARA support the normal physical development of the brain and eyes.
  • Easy to digest

Promoting the product with a variety of claims together with Abbott’s Rosco Bear mascot which appears on Similac product labels in many countries

Abbott seems to have forsaken little Rosco in favour of new packaging design.  Labels of Similac Advance Step 1 (powdered form) found also in Quebec, Canada, contain fancy promotional logos of product formulations. These promotional logos show claims such as “DHA ADH – Brain”, “Lutein-Eye” and “Vitamin E- Antioxidant” which are idealising the use of the product nonetheless. Such claims are prohibited by the subsequent WHA resolutions.

In Canada, as in the US, the attention is on the said “non-genetically modified” products which Abbott claims on their website to be its “closest formula to breastmilk” and “providing your baby with nutrition beyond DHA” (see screen shot from Similac website below)

Retrieved from https://similac.ca/en/products/similac-advance-step-1, accessed on 28 May, 2019)

Similac Advance Step 2 (similar packaging design as Similac Advance Step 1 with promotional logos of product formulations and no ‘Rosco Bear’) sold in Toronto, Canada comes in a larger format with 47% more formula in the package. This ‘value pack’ format is yet another indigenous marketing strategy by Abbott to attract the attention of mothers/parents and entice them to buy the product.

Even the fact that the product is “Non-GMO” becomes an advertising platform as it appears on the product label.

The special ‘value packs’ is also advertised on the Similac Canada website with campaign statement “All the MORE reason to choose Similac” and they are available for Similac Advance Step 1 & Step 2 and Similac Total Comfort Step 1.

(Retrieved from https://similac.ca/en, accessed on 29 May 2019)

Abbott also promotes the Similac Alimentum 1 infant formula on the website as “the #1 hypoallergenic formula recommended by doctors”. This accolade confers questionable medical endorsement of the product.

Retrieved from https://similac.ca/en/products/similac-alimentum, accessed on 28 May 2019)

The company blatantly claims on its website that Similac Alimentum contains DHA, an omega-3 fat to support the “normal physical development of the brain and eyes”.

The same fancy promotional logos showing product formulations/claims such as DHA ADH – Brain”, “Lutein-Eye”, “Vitamin E- Antioxidant” and the “Non-GMO” statement (circled in red in the picture below) are also found on the product labels of Similac  Go & Grow Step 3 growing-up milks sold in a pharmacy in Toronto, Canada.  Like other companies, Abbott continues to blatantly promote their growing-up milks with outrageous health claims as if they are not covered under the International Code. The 2016 WHO Guidance clearly reaffirms that growing-up milks are covered by the scope of the International Code and therefore should not be promoted.

Not only health claims are promotional and idealise the use of the products, they are often scientifically unsubstantiated, therefore are misleading.