What’s behind a formula tin label?

Reading time: 5 min

Before I get started, let me just reiterate that breast is best. We all already know this, but as I always say, there are many reasons for formula feeding and this post is not going to be covering the debates around this. Rather, this article serves to educate mothers on formula feeding legislation (R911) and the label guidelines around this.

This topic came about when a close friend of mine was discussing her baby’s reflux with me. I suggested an AR formula that I used, such as NAN AR or Novalac AR to assist with the problem, to which her response was “No, I will not use that because on the tin it says ‘THIS PRODUCT IS NOT STERILE’”. I hauled out my collection of formula tins of various brands to show her that every tin bears the same words on the front due to legislation. This was just one case of misunderstanding, which was resolved there and then and after which she had a happy baby.

“Every tin bears the same words on the front due to legislation.”

As there are most likely many other mothers out there with the same misperception (resulting in the mommy not having a solution for their baby), we’ve compiled a list of important things that have to be on all formula tins according to law, and is not just limited to certain brands:

  • There may be no graphic representation on tins, meaning you cannot show a real picture of a bottle made up with formula.
  • The tin does, however, need to display representations of the correct method of preparing, cleaning and using the product.
  • The label needs to provide proper instruction on sterilisation of equipment, utensils and instructions on preparation.
  • The label must Indicate that safe, previously boiled drinking water should be used.
  • The label must indicate that only the enclosed scoop should be used.
  • The label must indicate the feeding chart.
  • The label must indicate that the infant must be kept upright while feeding.
  • Instructions for discarding leftover feed must be visible.
  • Company brand names or logos can be used as long as they are not “humanised”, meaning that there is no image of a human (animated or real) or humanised animals (such as an animal drinking from a sippy cup, for instance).
  • Company logo, brand name and logos indicating endorsement by specific religious certifying organisations are permitted.
  • The label needs to have the name, address and customer care telephone number of the manufacturer, importer or seller.
  • There are parameters with regards to the size and type of font to be used and wording used.
  • The words “THIS PRODUCT SHALL ONLY BE USED ON THE ADVICE OF A HEALTH PROFESSIONAL” and “USE UNDER MEDICAL SUPERVISION” shall appear on the front main panel of the label. The latter is especially necessary for products that are for special dietary management for infants with special medical conditions.
  • The statements “does not contain breast milk” and “breast milk is the best food for babies” must appear on the top of the front panel.
  • Clear labelling in bold needs to be at the bottom of the front main panel with the following messages: This product should only be used on the advice of a healthcare professional and This product is not always sterile. It must be prepared and used appropriately.
  • Labels of infant formula must contain at least one of the following health messages:
  • Infant formula increases an infant’s risk of allergy.
  • Infant formula increases an infant’s risk of ear infections.
  • Infant formula increases an infant’s risk of acute respiratory diseases.
  • Infant formula increases an infant’s risk of gastrointestinal infections.
  • Any words promoting that formula is suitable for infants such as “first growth”, “first food”, “from the start” and “best start in life” are prohibited.
  • The age range for which the formula is suitable must be specified.
  • The tin needs to have on it certain mandatory nutritional information.
  • No health, medicinal or nutritional claims shall be permitted.
  • Certain messages need to be repeated on the label or on a package insert, in at least five other official languages.

For more detailed information (and lots more confusing regulations for everyday moms and formula users), you can look at The Regulations Relating to Foodstuffs for Infants and Young Children (R991). Has this article helped clear up any misunderstanding you had on infant formula labelling? As moms, we need to be there to help each other, so if you know of any other moms who are also struggling to interpret all the confusing wording and legislation out there on feeding, please share this article with them.

Disclaimer: This post is based on personal experience and personal brand preference of the content author and has in no way been paid for or sponsored. BabyYumYum reserves the right to its opinions and fully supports the notion of promotion that breast is best in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) infant feeding guidelines. Breast milk is the best food for infants. Good maternal nutrition is essential to prepare and maintain breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not applied, an infant formula may be used according to the advice of healthcare professionals. Preparation and storage of any infant formula should be performed as directed on the tin in order not to pose any health hazards.

Also read:

Why is formula feeding so confusing?
The history of formula