The South African Government has recently embarked on an exclusive breastfeeding strategy in South Africa. This strategy is in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation, which recommends that, in order to achieve optimal growth, development and health, infants should be exclusively breastfed up to the age of six months. From the age of six months, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods, while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.

Against this background, many manufacturers of baby foods and bottles (including infant formula, liquid milks, powdered milks, complementary foods, feeding bottles, cups and teats) are required to amend the packaging of their products to comply with recent regulations that relate to the labelling of those goods. These regulations are called the Regulations Relating to Foodstuffs for Infants and Young Children (GN R991), and were issued by the Department of Health.

In terms of the regulations, the containers and labels of infant formula must contain the following statements:

"Does not contain breast milk"

"Breast milk is best for babies"

"This product shall only be used on the advice of a health professional"

All containers or labels of complementary foods, liquid milks and powdered milks must state the following message:

"From 6 months of age, together with breast milk, infants should be fed a variety of foods. Ask a health worker or health professional for advice."

Furthermore, the labels of feeding bottles, feeding cups and teats must include a statement on the superiority of breast milk for feeding infants and should contain the following warning:

"If you are breastfeeding your baby, using a feeding bottle and teat may interfere with the baby's natural way of suckling your breast."

Phrases such as "Like Breastfeeding" on the label, packaging or container of feeding bottles, feeding cups and teats are prohibited. Furthermore, the labels or containers of those products may not imply that they are manufactured in accordance with the recommendation of a medical or dental practitioner.

No health, medicinal or nutrition claims may be made in relation to any of the products mentioned above. This means that phrases such as "Reduces Colic, Burping & Wind" or "Helps Preserve Vitamins" are prohibited.

In addition, the regulations place strict restrictions on the advertising and promotion of baby foods and bottles in South Africa.

Many industry players, including foreign manufacturers of baby bottles and the like, are concerned by these stricter labelling requirements and advertising restrictions in South Africa. That being said, it appears that the South Africa Government firmly believes that these regulations are in the public interest, and will benefit the health of South African children for generations to come.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.