Labour Government and Keir Starmer ‘must act’ on baby formula scandal 

Sir Keir Starmer pledged ‘change begins now’ in his victory speech this morning (Picture: Getty Images)

Labour needs to fulfil their promise and tackle the baby milk crisis as a ‘matter of urgency’, campaigners have told Metro.

Over the past two years, infant formula prices have soared above inflation, bringing the cost of feeding a 10-week-old up to £89 per month. In shops, security tags have appeared on basic items such as cheese, butter and baby milk as some Brits – worn down by the cost of living crisis – resort to stealing the products. Parents have also gone without meals, watered down formula or engaged in risky ‘formula foraging’ to try and feed their child.

Sign the Formula For Change petition here

While customers in supermarkets can use loyalty points and store gift vouchers to purchase the likes of alcohol, pet food and energy drinks, baby formula cannot be bought this way, however desperately it is needed.

Metro’s Formula for Change campaign, in partnership with the family support charity Feed, has sought to change that since launching last year by demanding the government introduce new legislation so cash-strapped families can afford to feed their families. 

The cost of infant milk remains at a ‘historically high’ level (Picture: Getty Images)

In the lead-up to the election, Labour’s Keir Starmer and Wes Streeting both promised to tackle the issue. Mr Streeting told Metro: ‘We will not stand by while outdated restrictions have a damaging impact on those struggling to make ends meet’, while Sir Keir told the Big Issue: ‘We’d [Labour] also change the rules so people could use food bank vouchers and loyalty card points to buy baby formula.’

Labour MP Preet Gill, writing for Metro, also pledged: ‘In government, Labour will ensure that regulation is protecting families and their children, not making life more difficult for them.  That means helping to cut people’s bills, boost economic growth and alleviate the financial pressures facing families.’

Now, after a landslide victory, the newly-installed Labour Government have been urged by campaigners to act on their promises – sooner rather than later.

Justine Roberts, Mumsnet Founder and CEO, told Metro: ‘Over the past few years, we’ve heard repeatedly from mums who are struggling with the cost of formula, and who feel that it’s parents, rather than the big manufacturers, who are being punished by the ban on advertising low prices or including formula in promotions.

Sir Keir Starmer told the Big Issue he would offer to pay if he saw a parent shoplifting baby formula(Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

‌’Changing formula marketing regulations so that they no longer financially penalise parents is a swift, simple way to immediately help families struggling with a cost of living crisis. Wes Streeting and Keir Starmer both pledged their support in opposition – now this Labour Government must act.’

Mumsnet went as far as to introduce a manifesto of their own ahead of July 4, which stressed the need for urgent reform to help struggling parents. 

Meanwhile Dr. Erin Williams, co-founder and director of the charity Feed, says a change in infant formula legislation is ‘just the beginning’ in helping lift new parents out of poverty. The most recent figures available from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation show that more than 1 in 5 people in the UK (22%) were in poverty in 2021/22 – which amounts to 14.4 million people. The figure today is expected to be much much higher, as a result of the cost of living crisis.

‘Families across the UK are now looking to Sir Keir to honour his commitment to Formula for Change and review the regulations restricting access to infant formula as a matter of urgency,’ Dr Williams told Metro. ‘But this is just the beginning.

Baby formula milk prices are to be investigated over cost concerns (Picture: Bloomberg/Getty Images)

‘If UK Labour truly want to ensure our children have a better future, they need to commit to ending infant food insecurity by lifting the benefits cap, raising the value of the Healthy Start scheme and by ensuring women’s choices are respected and put at the heart of policy.’

In Britain, there are strict infant formula laws which limit how it can be made, marketed, sold and bought. However, some supermarket chains have nevertheless slashed prices or offered discounted details – despite the fact doing so is technically breaking the law.

Richard Walker, executive chairman of Iceland, is among those who have done so. The businessman has been a vocal supporter of the Formula for Change campaign since its infancy. 

Mr Walker told Metro: ‘This is an historic moment for our country and a chance to finally listen to the millions of families supporting Formula for Change. 

‘I fully support Metro in calling on the new Government to act as soon as possible.’

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.

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