Thursday, March 01, 2007

Industry campaign 'misleading, deceptive, and malicious in intent'

The press release from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food is being picked up by media around the world. See yesterday's blog here:

It is really satisfying when a campaign moves on from Baby Milk Action and its partners saying 'please, please take a look at what is going on here', to people saying to us 'have you seen this shocking news report!' or even, 'could you run a campaign on this?'

It is the quantum leap in awareness we have been aiming for on the Philippines campaign.

Yesterday I received an email from India about the case, an email sent to a list of people, mainly in Asia. The industry has not been able to keep a lid on the scandal. Now it is out there and will increasingly take on a life of its own as the media, development organisations, policy makers and others conduct their own investigations and exposés.

We ask our supporters to help us with media monitoring and send in links and cuttings of reports they think of relevance to our work. We used to have a cuttings service, but with funding shortfalls, that was one of the expenditures we had to end. Google media pulls in some things, but interested supporters pick up far more of relevance. Sometimes we may already be aware of an article, because we assisted the journalist in some way, in which case it is good to know it is reaching people. Often, we will not be aware, because the story has taken life and others are investigating.

It is great to have been notified of the following reports yesterday, picking up on the Special Rapporteur's press release. The strong position taken by Jean Ziegler is greatly appreciated by all who have been working on this case.

Here are some choice quotes from some of the reports:

A UN expert has slammed a Filipino advertising campaign for breast milk substitutes as "misleading, deceptive, and malicious in intent."

Jean Ziegler this week criticized the campaign by the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines - which represents the infant milk industry - for manipulating findings by a number of health organizations to benefit its profits.

He also revealed his concern that companies may be distorting health claims linked to the product.

The attack is likely to increase pressure on authorities in the country to tighten legislation on health claims being made by food processors, following growing concerns that they may be misleading and potentially damaging to consumer health.

A UN expert criticized "deceptive" advertising in connection with sales of breast milk substitutes.

Aggressive marketing practices by milk companies were misleading the public by claiming that breast-feeding cannot be done by a majority of women and that their products raise healthy, smart and happy babies, said Jean Ziegler, a world body food specialist.

Newspaper ads by the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines are "misleading, deceptive and malicious in intent," he said.

The statement issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva said the ads "manipulate data emanating from the UN specialized agencies, such as WHO and UNICEF," as well as the Philippine Health Department, "with the sole purpose to protect the milk companies' huge profits, regardless of the best interest of Filipino mothers and children."
---extract ends

Significantly, reports have gone out on the Associated Press newswire service, which makes it far easier for the Philippines media to pick it up, than if risking the ire of advertisers by putting their own journalists onto the case.

One of the media outlets to do so is Sun.Star

Last July, the Philippine health department introduced strict regulations that included a ban on advertising and promotion of milk substitutes for children up to 2 years, with an absolute ban on false health and nutritional claims.

Milk companies, represented by PHAP, appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the new regulations constituted restraint on freedom of trade. The court granted a temporary restraining order last August that is still in effect.

Ziegler said he supports the Philippine government's position to regulate promotion of milk substitutes, and said he was counting on Filipinos and international organizations to oppose "manipulative and deceptive tactics of milk companies."
---extract ends

We have a list of organisations that have signed our petition of support for the Philippines Government. All are welcome to do so. We presented a card with these to the Philippines Ambassador in London last year. See:

This includes quotes from Christian Aid, Oxfam, the UK National Childbirth Trust, celebrities and politicians.

We are tracking media coverage on our original campaign launch press release. See:

No comments: