Danone has voiced concern over a call to introduce large health warnings on the front of baby milk packaging and described the potential move as ‘counterproductive’ and ‘confusing’ for new mums.

The firm, along with Nestlé, was urged by charity Save the Children to ‘lead the way’ by printing health messages covering a third of its infant formula packs, which state that baby milk substitute is inferior to breast milk.

In its report, ‘Superfood for Babies’, Save the Children cited “highly questionable” marketing practices adopted by some breast milk substitute companies’ active in emerging markets and urged Danone and Nestle to set an example by agreeing to the health warning recommendation.

However, Danone said it was saddened by the UK petition and warned that an increase in the size of the warning label could potentially confuse parents about which milks could be safely consumed by babies.

“Our products are safe and popular with parents because they meet a real need for mums who choose to bottle feed,” a Danone spokesperson said.

“All of our infant formulas carry warning labels and meet strict legislative rules, and our customer communications reinforce the benefits of breastfeeding. Our priority is to stand by mums and support them in the choices they make. All parents want to do the right thing for their babies and families and the early months can be a very stressful time.”

A spokeswoman for Nestlé added: “Nestlé already has in place the main elements recommended in the report for improving the breast milk substitute industry practices. We also believe that a new labeling initiative is not necessary based on Article 9.2 of the WHO Code, which spells out appropriate messaging for infant formula labels. We comply with this as well as with all the requirements of national labeling standards.”

“We call on Save the Children and others to improve the dialogue among all stakeholders to achieve the mutually desired goal of breaking down the barriers to successful breastfeeding.”