Grocery giant Iceland is the first retailer to lend its public support to Metro.co.uk and Feed’s Formula for Change campaign, calling on the government to scrap ‘archaic’ laws restricting how retailers can sell baby formula amid the cost of living crisis.
The supermarket is encouraging its customers to sign our campaign’s petition, which has more than 40,000 signatures and rising, with executive chairman Richard Walker declaring: ‘It was great to learn that Metro.co.uk and Feed’s Formula For Change campaign so closely aligned with everything we have been working to at Iceland.
‘They have made great strides already in gaining thousands of signatures and the support shows how important this issue is to many people.
‘We hope that now we have joined forces, we can get the government’s attention and help change the legislation around formula milk. This will allow retailers to give struggling families the support they need.’
The price of baby formula, also called infant formula or formula milk, has soared for years, adding to the already long list of woes facing hard-done-to families.
Even the cheapest brand has increased by 45% in the past two years, public health charity First Steps Nutrition found.
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Murky laws limit how formula tubs can be sold and bought, such as not letting shoppers use coupons or preventing retailers from putting them on promotion.
But Iceland openly defied the policy last week by announcing plans to slash the price of its formula range by more than 20%, applying to the frozen grocer’s infant, follow-on and toddler milk formula products.
‘We did this knowing that it is against the law,’ Mr Walker, 43, told Metro.co.uk.
‘We’ve had complaints from local authorities, the Department of Health – kind of expected, really.’
‘We know our responsibility,’ he adds, ‘that’s why we’re taking bold action.’
Together with Metro and Feed, Iceland is calling on the government to slash the red tape to let it and other grocers pass on savings to parents and guardians and let them accept loyalty points, store cards or food bank vouchers as payment.
And in another bold move, the supermarket is pushing back against the government guidelines once more by deciding to accept cash equivalents, such as vouchers and gift cards, from customers who want to buy vital baby formula.
Mr Walker said the current regulations are ‘ridiculous’, such as how it stops shops from reducing the price of the essential even if it is nearing the end of its shelf life.
‘There are unintended consequences of this law. It’s illegal to offer free parking next to one of our stores if a customer is coming in to buy formula,’ he adds.
‘It’s a silly, archaic law that urgently needs to be reviewed.’
FORMULA FOR CHANGE: HOW YOU CAN HELP
Join Metro.co.uk and Feed in calling on the government to urgently review their infant formula legislation and give retailers the green light to accept loyalty points, all food bank vouchers and store gift cards as payment for infant formula.
Our aim is to take our petition to No.10 to show the Prime Minister this is an issue that can no longer be ignored.
The more signatures we get, the louder our voice, so please click here to sign our Formula for Change petition.
Things need to change NOW.
Speaking on behalf of Metro.co.uk, Assistant Editor Claie Wilson said: ‘This is an incredible move from Iceland and something Metro and our campaign partner Fee, wholeheartedly support. The more retailers can do to help families who are struggling, the better. This isn’t a breast v bottle issue, it’s about making sure babies don’t go hungry, and it’s beyond shocking we’re even having to campaign for this.’
Nearly nine in 10 people aged between 18 and 35 who have a child under one are concerned about the swelling cost of infant formula, research from Iceland has found.
The rise has been so dizzying that the NHS’s Healthy Start Scheme, a voucher for people on low-income or welfare to pay for baby essentials, isn’t enough to pay for formula, The Food Foundation found.
As inflation continues to gobble up people’s money, baby banks and stealing formula are among some of the ways families are surviving each month.
Iceland said it is ‘alarming’ parents are having to cut back on the frequency of feeding, overlook best-before dates or over-dilute the powder.
‘We’re a private family-run business,’ Mr Walker says, ‘and I didn’t want that on my conscience.
‘We agree that breastfeeding is best for babies, however, many parents are unable to or choose not to or top up their feeds.
‘They shouldn’t be worried about how they’ll be able to feed their babies.’
Baby formula, milk that has been treated to pack it with the nutrients babies need, is vital for countless parents and guardians who can’t breastfeed.
Many mothers don’t have the time or energy to breastfeed, with researchers saying this is especially pronounced for those working low-income jobs and living paycheque to paycheque.
And countless others too, Mr Walker stresses: ‘If you’ve got adopted kids, or you’re a gay couple, or you’re undergoing medical treatment.
‘Or you’ve got to rush back to work. Or if you simply choose not to.
‘It’s about women having control over their own decisions and their own bodies.
‘I don’t see why they should be told otherwise, especially by a very old law that isn’t really relevant.’
Mr Walker called on other retailers to follow Iceland’s lead in giving shoppers more options when it comes to popping a tin of formula in their baskets.
‘Businesses have a responsibility to help customers however they can during the cost of living crisis,’ he says.
‘I’ve talked in the past about foregoing profit margins to help customers through this. But it makes sense as well from a business perspective – if you support customers through the hard times, they’ll remember it during the good times.’
Baby formula law, covered by the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula (England) Regulations 2007, aligns with guidelines by the World Health Organization (WHO), the government has long said.
Over 40,000 people have signed the Formula For Change petition, with Mr Walker saying: ‘With the Metro Formula for Change campaign, I admire anyone willing to put their head above the parapet to stick up for struggling families.
‘It’s common sense, really. There is no doubt this is a controversial topic – we will attract criticism from some quarters – but I’m at pains to stress that we’re not being overly sales-y. We just want to be able to communicate in a neutral, informative way.
‘Ultimately, like Metro.co.uk and Feed,’ Mr Walker adds, ‘we’re just trying to do what’s right.’
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