Friday, November 16, 2007

Contacting Government Ministers in the UK

Many thanks to everyone who has been sending messages of solidarity to the UK Secretary of State for Health and Minister for Public Health, stating you back full implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions in UK legislation.

If you have not done so yet, please do. It just takes a second. See:

You will likely receive a reply saying Ministers are busy people and the messages are being forwarded to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which takes the lead on this subject.

However, we do want the level of public support to register with the Ministers, to back up our contact with them. As I wrote on Tuesday, Nestlé, which is trying to break into the UK market by offering to sponsor health workers, has access simply by opening its cheque book to sponsor events at the Labour Party Conference. See:

Even though your messages are being passed on to the civil servants at the FSA, I have been assured by the office of the Minister of Public Health that she is aware of the support for implementing the minimum standards adopted by the World Health Assembly. Ministers are specifically informed about correspondence if there is a large volume on one topic, for instance if there is a particular campaign. I know that there have been hundreds of messages already through the campaign we launched on Tuesday. Let us keep working for hundreds more over the coming days.

These will add to the submissions we, our partners and members of the public have made to the consultation on the proposed regulations. There were 1,341 submissions to that and I am sure the vast majority are supporting our position set out in the report:
Protecting breastfeeding - Protecting babies fed on formula.

At the end of the day it will come down to whether the politicians are prepared to put infant health first in the face of industry pressure.

We saw in the Philippines that the industry is prepared to take legal action against governments and make economic threats. Here they may try to use a fallacious argument that the government can do no more than the minimum set out in the EU Directive on Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula. We have included in our submission the legal reasons why the Directive not only permits implementation of the International Code, but, as it references it, can be argued to require implementation.

Behind the scenes there are efforts by a Commission official to knock governments off track. We have registered an official complaint to the EU Ombudsman about this behaviour, which will be explained in our imminent newsletter sent to members (click here to become a member) and posted on our website.

If we do not gain the protection babies and their families need in the next week or so, there may not be another chance for over a decade.

It can't be easy for the Ministers who have to grasp the details of the case, alongside every other area they are responsible for, and find the courage to stand up to powerful vested interests. Every message from a member of the public or an organisation helps to demonstrate the support Ministers can rely on. If they do put infant health and mothers' rights first, there will be applause across the land and around the globe. So please do take action.

No comments: