A pediatricians' group said Monday that it will fight any attempt by Carnation Co. to advertise a new infant formula to the public.
Richard Narkewicz, president of the 34,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics, said he has written a letter to Carnation President T. F. Crull saying: "Any attempt to dissuade mothers from breast-feeding by advertising infant formula directly to the public would be strongly condemned by the academy."
Infant-formula makers have traditionally refrained from advertising directly to the public, and the academy's longstanding policy has been to oppose such advertising, Narkewicz said.
The academy's opposition stems from its concern that such product promotion may encourage women to use formula rather than to breast-feed their infants, Narkewicz said.
"Quite frankly," Narkewicz said, "if breast-feeding is the best, and you've got a multimillion-dollar promotion for formula, who's going to put up the dough to advertise that breast-feeding is best? Nobody."
At a press conference in New York, Carnation, a Los Angeles-based subsidiary of Nestle SA, announced the introduction of an infant formula that the company says will help some infants who are allergic to existing formulas.
Carnation spokesman Richard Curd said the company plans an information campaign to alert the public to the problem of infant-formula allergies. He said the ads will mention Carnation, not the new product.
The formula, called Good Start H.A., is a whey-based, predigested product that Carnation says will not cause allergies in some children who are allergic to conventional cow's milk formulas or formulas made from soybean proteins.
Dr. Richard Hamburger, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego, who spoke at the press conference on the company's behalf, said perhaps 8% of U.S. children are allergic to both milk-based and soy-based infant formulas, the two most commonly used in the United States.
Some children who are allergic to both kinds of formula--which contain whole proteins--may not be allergic to Good Start H.A., which contains proteins that are broken down, said Hamburger.
Hamburger and Narkewicz both emphasized that breast-feeding is preferred over the use of infant formula.
Dr. William Weil, a professor of pediatrics at Michigan State University and former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' nutrition committee, said as many as 90% of children may have some food disorder at some time but that formula allergy is not usually the cause.
Of the Carnation product, he said: "It does not sound to me like they've come up with anything in the way of a breakthrough for feeding problems in infancy."
Adele Haley, a pharmaceutical business securities analyst for Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co., said Carnation made a "less than convincing" argument that it has a significantly different product.
Ernie Strapazon, assistant general manager of Carnation's nutritional products division, said: "The company has developed an information campaign for Good Start H.A. targeted at consumers and focusing on formula intolerance symptoms. The message will direct consumers to their pediatrician for the solution to problems of infant formula intolerance caused by cow's milk-based or soy-based formulas."
Narkewicz, a South Burlington, Vt., pediatrician, expressed concern that the academy's nutrition committee had no opportunity to examine the product.
"When we learn what this formula is, we will have our committee look at it and see--does it satisfy the standards?" Narkewicz said from Chicago, where he was attending a meeting of the American Medical Assn.
"But I'll tell you one thing: We are going to strongly fight them if they are advertising infant formula directly to the public."
Several Carnation officials, including Crull and Strapazon, were aboard a plane to Los Angeles from New York and could not be reached for a response to Narkewicz, said Paulette Barrett of Edelman Public Relations in New York, the agency that organized the press conference.