The good news is that the review panel charged with evaluating whether the new Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations work effectively held its first meeting last Friday. We have received a formal request to submit evidence to the review (with the BFLG quarterly monitoring reports being specifically mentioned) and to attend a stakeholder meeting. We prepared the first quarterly montoring report in time for the first panel meeting. See:
The bad news is that we have virtually no money for this work. A particular blow was hearing back from a charitable trust I had sent a funding proposal to for a project covering this. I had spent the best part of a day preparing a proposal tailored to the application procedure on their website and fitting with their criteria. Only to be told that the Trustees are now interested in different areas and so this type of project is no longer relevant. Fundraising is wonderful when it works - and we are grateful to all our funders. But time lost when it does not.
There are few funders interested in such strategically important work, despite the fact that bringing formula marketing requirements into line with the World Health Assembly standards would help to improve infant health, protect mothers' rights and save the country a fortune. The detail of the benefits were set out in our report 'Protecting breastfeeding - Protecting babies fed on formula' submitted to the government's consultation on the Regulations and available on line at:
Most funders direct resources to interventions, on our issue that means providing breastfeeding support to mothers to try to improve rates. This is, of course, also very important. 90% of mothers who stopped breastfeeding before 6 months said they wanted to breastfeed for longer, and support is part of the solution. What we do however is address the root problems of aggressive marketing of formula which undermines breastfeeding and denies parents who use formula the information they need. We are looking for improved breastfeeding rates and reduced sickness for infants fed on formula from possible intrinsic contamination of formula with harmful bacteria such as Enterobacter Sakazakii.
There is a lot we can do without funding. Indeed, the report we just submitted was only possible due to the support of volunteers who monitor and submit evidence and to staff working in their unpaid time. Staff hours fluctuate with funding. As someone committed to this work I do not, in principle, have a problem with working on UK issues without pay, but practically there are difficulties. If Baby Milk Action can only pay me to work a couple of days per week, I have to spend at least some of the unpaid time looking for and doing other work.
When time available for priorities is short, there is a conflict between focusing on them and spending time looking for new funding to try to increase staff hours.
So this is an appeal for donations. Not particularly from our usual supporters, who already do so much, and if they want to do more could treat themselves to the latest edition of The Politics of Breastfeeding by Gabrielle Palmer. I cannot thank people enough for the support for the UK campaign. This has had a positive impact. The Guidance Notes that accompany the Regulations contain some good measures (an indication of how good is the attack on them from the baby food industry). And with the review panel the door is still open for stronger Regulations.
What I would really like is someone rich to send us a cheque or click the special donation button below, which I'll run on the site for a while. Appeals when there are natural disasters or for the protection of particular endangered species can attract donations of thousands of pounds from wealthy individuals. Such a donation to us would have an immediate impact on the time that can be put to the UK campaign.
The funds we are seeking will enable us:
- to report practices that breach the Regulations to Trading Standards officers,
- to prepare summary reports of any action taken, the results and new marketing practices,
- to participate in stakeholder meetings with the review panel, t
- o continue to brief the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which told the UK to implement the World Health Assembly measures in its 2003 report and will be reviewing progress later this year and
- to prepare training materials to increase the number of people who are monitoring. to continue monitoring the Regulations when they are finally set and work for their enforcement and
- to make the case for Regulations for feeding bottles and teats, which are covered by World Health Assembly marketing requirements, but not at all by UK legislation.
Our funding proposal is available if there is anyone interested in funding this work or helping us to fundraise for it.
We can only accept donations from individuals or non-profit organisations. We do not accept donations from commercial organisations as I was writing about the other day.
If you are inspired to send us a big donation you can do so by credit card, paypal or cheque (a cheque has no processing costs for us) by scrolling down to the button below, which links to the secure payment system we use.
Alternatively go to the donation page on our website. Donations for our international work can be made there and are also extremely welcome.