Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wyeth’s assault on law and logic in the Philippines

Today we launch a new campaign to target Wyeth malpractice in the Philippines.

And today the campaign to defend the baby food marketing requirements introduced by the Ministry of Health in the Philippines receives major coverage with an article by George Monbiot. See:

While we are probably best known for promoting the boycott of Nestlé, the worst of the baby food companies, the main focus of our work is monitoring the industry as a whole and working for implementation of international standards in independently monitored and enforced legislation. The minutes and days are ticking away until the Supreme Court in the Philippines rules on whether to heed the industry’s challenge and strike down the governments Implementing Rules and Regulations. As you know if you have been following this blog, the court rejected the industry’s initial attempt, only reversing that decision after the US Chamber of Commerce threatened the President of the Philippines with a loss of investment in the country if she did not interfere in the court case. Four days after the letter from Mr Thomas Donohue the Supreme Court imposed a temporary restraining order on the regulations.

Many of you will have signed our petition of solidarity with the Philippines, which has generated front-page stories there, breaking through the medias reluctance to report on stories critical of big advertisers. See:

We have also asked you to send letters to the companies responsible for aggressive marketing. This was exposed graphically in a film from UNICEF Philippines released in May, which you can view on line here:

Company responses have either ignored the issue or, in the case of Wyeth, defended the attack on the Regulations. Nestlé, which is not part of the legal action against the regulations but is guilty of aggressive marketing in the Philippines, is trying to undermine our campaign by sending secret letters to key policy makers attacking Baby Milk Action. It has refused to give us a copy.

You can read company responses to our Campaign for Ethical Marketing at:

Wyeth said, in part: “The IRR will remove information that mothers need in order to make good food choices, and would apply at a time when her baby is most vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies, namely 6 to 24 months of age or beyond.”

Well, what does Wyeth mean by the information? This on its Bonna infant formula labels perhaps?

"Helps promote physical growth, increase resistance to infection, and enhance brain development."

This undermines the required ‘breast is best’ message and is more than a little misleading in a country where 16,000 infants die as a result of inappropriate feeding. Where in the capital, Manila, only 4% are connected to a sewer network. See:

Or does Wyeth mean the series of events it has been holding, where mothers of infants from 6 to 15 months are invited to try its Bonna milk? Here is an example from 28 May 2007:

Mothers were told the company reps. would be back in 7 days and they could win a prize by presenting a pack of Bonna milk.

Here’s the van and a bill board showing how Wyeth presents its formula as making kids grow to be big and strong.

As well as intelligent and protected against infections.

As UNICEF has tried to alert mothers in the Philippines, these idealizing claims hide the risks of formula feeding and the benefits of breastfeeding. See:

But the best way to protect mothers is for the regulations to go ahead to stop the idealizing promotion.

At the same time we need to remind companies that they are required to abide by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly independently of government measures. The Code and Resolutions prohibit idealizing claims on labels and direct or indirect contact between company representatives and mothers.

So please do send a message to the Chief Executive of Wyeth letting him know you are watching what his company is doing and the Philippines and demanding that it is stopped immediately.

See our Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheer for June 2007 at:

While you are there, you can also send a message to Nestlé’s Chief Executive over his company’s defence of targeting mothers in Bangladesh with fliers for Lactogen infant formula, as discussed on this blog recently.

Don't let them get away with assaulting laws and logic.

Don’t let them get away with putting profits before infant health.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike, I read the article in the Guardian by Joanna Moore and wound up on your blog. Just wanted to say I admire the work you're doing and encourage you to stick with it.

I also have a question, while what the baby milk companies do is clearly not in the spirit of the WHA regulations, it seems to me the larger issue is access to clean water. Does your organization do any work related to create safe drinking water infrastructure in the developing world or are you guys just on the policy/accountability end of things?