NEWS / Food Poverty

Cost of infant formula negatively impacting family budgets

Parliamentary Inquiry highlights the need for more research into the impact of austerity and hardship on families who use infant formula

Photo by Gabriel Crismariu on Unsplash

Photo by Gabriel Crismariu on Unsplash

Today the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infant Feeding and Inequalities (APPGIFI) will launch findings from their inquiry into the financial impact of infant formula on family budgets in the UK.

Dr Helen Crawley, Director of Sustain member, First Steps Nutrition Trust, and author of the report will today tell delegates at the Unicef UK Baby Friendly Conference that the APPGIFI inquiry has found that the high cost of infant formula is reported to be having a seriously negative impact on a number of families in the UK, and that this may lead to unsafe feeding practices, and parents limiting their own food intake or that of other children, in order to make ends meet.

Vulnerable and low income families, those with multiple births, homeless families, those living in temporary accommodation, asylum seeking families and those with no recourse to public funds are most at risk of experiencing ‘formula’ poverty.

Key findings include:

  • The cost of infant formula was reported to have a serious impact on some family budgets and can range from £6.44 to £13.52 per week for powdered varieties, compared to £24.47 to £32.20 for ready to feed products.
  • Families on tight budgets may resort to unsafe practices in order to feed their babies – like skipping feeds, watering down formula or adding cereal.
  • Marketing and advertising were reported to have a significant influence on families’ choice of infant formula in spite of the fact that all infant formula must have a composition that conforms to UK regulations.

“I often go without basic toiletry essentials (particularly feminine care items) due to having to choose between those and formula.” – Parent respondent.

The APPGIFI have made a number of recommendations including:

  • Research is urgently needed into the potential for unsafe infant formula use in low income and vulnerable families and the potential risks this may pose to short and long term child health.
  • Government should set up an independent body to regularly review data on infant feeding in the UK and work across departments to ensure that the needs of infants are considered in any changes to welfare, immigration rules, benefits and health and social care services.
  • The UK should bring the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent WHA resolutions (the Code) into UK law to remove advertising of breastmilk substitutes to the general public, and to ensure that health services are free from conflicts of interest.
  • Public health messaging is needed which makes clear that there is no significant nutritional difference between brands of first infant formula and that they must all conform to the same compositional regulations.


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Food Poverty: Over 8 million people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat. Sustain is working with communities, third-sector organisations, local authorities and government, aiming to make sure everyone can eat well.

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