Following a long-running consultation process that began in 2010, the Government of Hong Kong is scheduled to promulgate its infant formula marketing guidelines this month (the 2017 Draft Code).
The 2017 Draft Code, which is voluntary:
- applies to infant and young child formula, related products (e.g., bottles and teats), and pre-packaged food products for children up to 36 months old;
- prohibits manufacturers and distributors (M&Ds) from sponsoring or conducting educational activities or distributing informational materials on breastfeeding and formula milk feeding to the public;
- allows M&Ds to distribute product information to the public only upon request and only if the information is limited to factual information, does not promote bottle feeding or discourage breastfeeding, and sets out the benefits and superiority of breastfeeding over formula milk or bottle feeding;
- prohibits M&Ds from advertising and promoting (with certain exceptions) formula and formula-related products to the public;
- prohibits donations, discounted products and promotional gimmicks to Health Care Professionals (HCPs) and healthcare facilities;
- allows products and facilities to be provided to HCPs only for the purpose of professional evaluation or research;
- allows for the distribution of product information to HCPs only if such information is restricted to scientific and factual matters or if the information provides references to peer-reviewed studies suggesting a relationship between the product and child health; and
- regulates certain labeling imagery and information.
The Hong Kong Competition Commission has raised competition law concerns about the 2017 Draft Code’s prohibition on promotions such as coupons and special offers and has stated that the Government is reviewing its comments. This may result in minor modifications, but market participants should be prepared for the 2017 Code to become effective as scheduled. As the Government is still considering the need for legislation, businesses should continue to engage with the Government and other stakeholders even after the 2017 Draft Code is issued.
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