Friday, August 10, 2007

Ban formula promotion - says China and Australia

"But efforts to promote breastfeeding are lagging behind the promotion of formula milk. The society also needs to strengthen the caring and protection system for mothers and encourage them to continue breastfeeding."

This is not another reaction to the Wyeth/SMA promotion in OK! Magazine. See:

The above quote comes from China and Dai Yaohua, a senior researcher with the Beijing-based Capital Institute of Paediatrics and a counselor with the World Health Organization.

According to the report in the China Daily: "The country has banned the promotion of breast milk substitutes in hospitals since the launch of the Regulation of Human Milk Substitutes Distribution in 1995. The regulation also stipulates that doctors must promote the advantages of breastfeeding. The regulation is being amended. More detailed measures and new standards will be introduced."

The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly applies to all countries.

It aims "to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breastmilk substitutes, when these are necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution."

We campaigned for the Code, adopted in 1981, and continue to campaign for its implementation in national measures. Yesterday I wrote of the need to implement the Code and Resolutions in the UK to protect mothers who use formula. See:

Mothers in China who use formula need greater protection as well. When Nestlé was found to have put sub-standard formula onto the market, it refused to withdraw it. It took a consumer boycott to prompt action. The China Daily commented Nestlé had responded with "with the speed and alacrity of a sailor drunk on shore leave."

Nestlé's CEO, Peter Brabeck-Latmathé, responded by personally launching a promotion targeting pregnant and lactating women in supermarkets, something we exposed on our Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet. We and our partners have also exposed Numico (maker of Milupa, Aptamil and Cow & Gate formulas) for promoting formula in China with a free CD. See:

So it will be a welcome step if the Code and Resolutions are implemented in China to protect all mothers.

That is also the call from a Parliamentary Committee in Australia this week. According to The Australian:

---extract begins

The WHO code, according to the inquiry, bans all advertising and promotion of products to the general public, and stops free samples. Australia was an early signatory to the international code, but in 1992 the government instead introduced a voluntary code.

The local code does not stop supermarkets or companies from promoting formula.

The committee said it had significant evidence of marketing in Australia that would discourage breastfeeding, such as doctors becoming "surrogate marketers" by giving out free infant formula sample packs.

"The committee considers it is time to make a decisive and clear statement of the importance of breastfeeding to the Australian community by implementing the full WHO code," the inquiry said.

---extract ends

This is one of 22 recommendations to support breastfeeding mothers.

It will be interesting to see whether the proposals generate the same heated debate as in the UK or whether they will be seen as empowering proposals.

In the UK remember 9 out of 10 mothers who stopped breastfeeding before their child was 6 months old said they wanted to breastfeed for longer. We are not talking about coercing mothers, but creating an environment were all mothers can say they breastfed as long as they wanted. And, at the same time, making sure mothers who use formula have accurate independent information and labels carry correct warnings and instructions to reduce the risks. See our press release from today (an edited version of yesterday's blog):
New UK formula labels lack correct information - calls for better warnings and instructions

In all parts of the world the impact of the baby food industry is being felt. Hence the call for regulations. Let us hope the UK will set a positive example to other countries - even if we have been waiting for the 26 years since the Code was adopted.

1 comment:

Lauredhel said...


Unfortunately, the Australian Parliamentary Inquiry report fell very short in a number of areas, and WHO Code enforcement is one of them. The Code is mentioned in the discussion portion of the report. But there is, in fact, no formal recommendation in the report that the Code be enforced in any way at all, except that it should be adopted within the Department of Health and Ageing (i.e. for public hospital staff), and that baby foods shouldn't be labelled as suitable for babies under six months.

Nothing _whatsoever_ about formula company advertising and promotions direct to the public, or within private healthcare systems.

And this is purely a parliamentary inquiry, with no force in law. As we've seen with the recent report on indigenous communities, the government is under no obligation to implement or take notice of any recommendation of the report if they don't feel like it.

I've put a link to the complete report here with my take: