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Milk ad banned over iron claim

An ad for toddler formula milk has been banned for falsely claiming that most young children do not get enough iron, a watchdog said.

The television campaign for Cow & Gate Complete Care Growing Up Milk said: "Did you know eight out of 10 toddlers aren't getting enough iron?"

The ad showed a woman giving her child a giant 12-litre cup of milk before the voice-over continued: "It's not surprising - meeting 50% of their needs would mean drinking 12 litres of cow's milk per day ... or just two beakers of Cow & Gate Complete Care Growing Up Milk, as part of a varied diet helping to support brain development, strong bones and teeth, healthy growth."

On-screen text read: "Recommended daily intake of iron = 6.9mg from a variety of iron-rich foods which may include Growing Up Milk." Three people challenged whether the claim that "eight out of 10 toddlers aren't getting enough iron" could be substantiated.

Nutricia, another company within Cow & Gate parent group Danone, which supplied the iron deficiency figures, said a 2009 study examined the nutritional values of the diets of 185 toddlers over a four-day period and believed it showed the subjects were not meeting the recommended nutrient intake (RNI) for iron. The findings were in line with a similar study in 1995, the company added.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said most viewers would interpret the ad to mean that their child was deficient in iron if they received less than 6.9mg a day.

However the ASA said it received expert advice that there was no recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron for toddlers and that, for food labelling purposes, the value of iron recommended for children between the ages of one and three years was set at 6mg. Iron absorption was regulated at intestinal levels and different amounts of iron were absorbed from the diet depending on the requirements of the body.

The study by Nutricia examined the diet itself, and not the subsequent absorption of iron contained within that diet, and so could not conclude that the individual children in the study were not getting enough iron, the ASA was told.

The ASA said: "Because this (6.9mg) figure was based on recommendations for entire groups of toddlers and was not the amount of iron recommended as being necessary to prevent developmental problems associated with iron deficiency in individual toddlers, we concluded that the claim was likely to mislead."

It ruled that the ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.

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