NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A brand of coffee creamer that
features a logo of a mother bear and cub is being mistakenly
fed to infants whose parents think it is a substitute for
breast milk, according to researchers in Laos.
Reporting in the medical journal BMJ, they warn that
Nestle's Bear Brand coffee creamer is misleading to parents who
do not understand the product labeling.
The Bear Brand markets infant formula that carries a logo
of a cartoon mother bear cradling its cub -- and the same logo
appears on the brand's coffee creamer. The coffee creamer
packaging does state, in English, Lao and Thai, that it is not
a substitute for breast milk, and it bears a picture of an
infant bottle with a slash across it.
However, because Laos has dozens of languages and a high
rate of illiteracy, many parents may be unable to read the
coffee creamer labeling, according to Hubert Barennes and
colleagues at the Institut de la Francophonie pour la Médecine
Tropicale in Laos.
The researchers decided to study the issue after they
discovered that several children they'd seen with protein
malnutrition had unwittingly been fed the Bear Brand coffee
They conducted a survey of 26 Laotian pediatricians and a
second one of randomly selected households in five Laos
Overall, 24 of the pediatricians said that parents
"sometimes" or "often" fed the coffee creamer to their babies
as a substitute for breast milk. Of the 1,098 Lao adults who
were surveyed, nearly half believed that the logo indicated the
product was meant for infants.
Moreover, almost one-fifth said they had given the creamer
to their own infant.
"The Bear Brand logo's non-verbal message implies that the
product contained is intended for infants," Barennes and his
"The powerful visual message is not mitigated by the
addition of warning text or by the confusing symbol of the
feeding bottle with a cross through it."
"Because of its ease of misinterpretation," the researchers
conclude, "this logo should not be permitted on products that
are not infant formula."
They call for more research to see whether a similar
problem exists in other developing countries.
SOURCE: BMJ Online First, September 10, 2008.