Note: This action alert is posted on behalf of a USBC partner.
*UPDATE* 10/24/2016: This just in. The Infant Formula Nutrition Council of America (INCA), the lobbying arm of the infant formula industry, wants FDA to extend the comment period on the Structure/Function Claims Proposed Guidance by 90 days—until February 8! If FDA extends the process into the period of transition to a new Administration, the proposed guidance could be badly delayed, lost in the mists of time, or completely derailed. We urge you to oppose this request, which seems politically motivated, in your comments to FDA. The guidance proposal is not rocket science in that it simply asks for comment on the issue of requiring that claims be based on scientific studies that meet commonly accepted criteria for rigor and integrity. Like all other stakeholders, the formula industry should be able to prepare comments on this straightforward proposal by the November 8 deadline. If you haven’t yet submitted a comment letter, please include your opposition to INCA's request. We’ve updated the templates at the links below to reflect this.
Dear Breastfeeding Supporters,
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is finally taking some major steps to tighten scrutiny of the labeling (and accompanying advertising) messages that the infant formula industry has been using to market their products in the US. We need your help to send a strong message to FDA to keep it up -- and do more! Please consider submitting a comment letter by the November 8 deadline, using the templates provided. Also, please spread the word to your networks, so that we can counter expected industry push-back by generating as many letters as we can in the next few weeks.
As you all know, formula companies are in fierce competition and making more and more “structure/function” labeling claims, often linked to an underlying marketing message that infant formula is “closer to breast milk than ever.” An example of a structure/function claim is a statement that the formula “supports digestion.” Many of us have seen how these claims confuse and mislead parents, and contribute to the kind of marketing that undermines both exclusive breastfeeding and the duration of breastfeeding.
On September 9, FDA, for the first time ever, proposed draft guidance for industry, entitled “Substantiation for Structure/Function Claims Made in Infant Formula Labels and Labeling,” which describes the type and quality of evidence that FDA thinks industry should use to substantiate structure/function claims, recommends that the evidence meet “competent and reliable evidence” standards, and strongly suggests that companies use clinical research trials to back up their assertions.
This draft guidance is a huge step in the right direction, and it’s very likely that industry will push back with many objections. FDA needs to hear from breastfeeding experts and public health advocates that they are doing the right thing, and need to do even more, to protect mothers and babies from misleading labels and marketing. Numbers DO count: FDA officials are required to read and track each comment letter that they get, and report the results publicly. So let’s get those letters pouring in to FDA!
A group of legal and technical breastfeeding advocates, convened by Berkeley Media Studies Group in late September, decided to work together to draft comments and get the word out to advocates. A detailed legal and technical comments letter was submitted to FDA by ChangeLab Solutions on the group’s behalf, and the template letters are a simpler and shorter version of the ChangeLab letter, but fully support it.
How to Comment and Generate Letters
- Download and adapt either the Template Letter for Breastfeeding Advocates or the Template Letter for Public Health Advocates to complete your comments. Use the prompts (in red) to add your evidence, stories and additions. Choose "we” if your letter is coming from an organization or coalition, “I” if from you as an individual. Put the letter on your organizational or personal letterhead.
- Submit your letter electronically by going right to docket number FDA-2016-D-2241. (The link is https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FDA-2016-D-2241.) The Proposed Guidance is the first of the two FDA documents listed there. Click on "COMMENT NOW!" Fill in the top box by simply saying you are pleased to comment on the Proposed Guidance Docket Number FDA-2016-D-2241, then upload your letter following the instructions below that. You can also go to the Federal Regs website at https://www.regulations.gov and find the FDA Proposed Guidance by searching for it using FDA-2016-D-2241.
- Spread the word! Use or adapt this Alert and materials to send out a call to action to your networks to generate more letters to FDA.
Contact Laurie True at California WIC Association at firstname.lastname@example.org or Cara Wilking, Consulting Attorney, at email@example.com. Thanks to Cara Wilking, Sabrina Adler of ChangeLab, and many others for their time and assistance with this amazing team effort!
HAVE YOUR SAY, WRITE FDA! SPREAD THE WORD! THANKS FOR YOUR TIME!