Monday, June 30, 2008

Breastfeeding experts quit at Canadian hospital over Nestlé 'wine-and-dine' event

I wrote recently about baby food company sponsorship and concerns over conflicts of interest. The World Health Assembly has adopted Resolutions calling for care in this area. See:

An example of company sponsorship and its fallout comes from Canada. It was reported last week that Renee Hefti-Graham and Linda Good both quit their jobs as breastfeeding experts at Burnaby General Hospital this month after: "an invitation circulated through the hospital's e-mail system to a Nestlé-sponsored "wine-and-dine" event to be held June 12."

You might think that a 'wine-and-dine' event is designed to attract health workers and put them in a sympathetic mood for the company reps. to pitch to them. Not at all, it seems. According to the report on "Company spokeswoman Catherine O'Brien said yesterday that the formula maker is not in violation of the WHO code because the event was created solely to provide 'science-based information.'"

The same story is repeated around the world. In our recent campaign in support of the Philippines, we exposed Nestlé giving gifts to health workers and labelling its formula with claims about it aiding the development of intelligence and vision. Independent analysis by the Cochrane library shows such claims (about LCPs) are not supported by the evidence. So much for 'science-based information' from Nestlé.

In India, where the law prohibits baby food companies sponsoring health-worker events, Nestlé still tries to get away with it, showing how the importance Nestlé puts on ingratiating itself with people seen as independent my mothers. For example, in 2006 it it sponsored a music night for medical graduates at BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur. Presumably a 'science-based' music night? As professional associations are refusing baby-food-company sponsorship (the Indian Paediatric Association did so long before the law came in), Nestlé has taken to holding its own events and trying to persuade paediatricians to attend. See:

The breastfeeding experts resigned in Canada as they felt they did not have support from their boss, according to the report: "She doesn't understand the issues," said Hefti-Graham. "She called [the materials I brought her] propaganda . . . and I've been working in this field for 20 years. I cannot work with a manager who tells me that the information I give her is propaganda."

It is a strange world where wining and dining can end up being portrayed as providing 'science-based information' and information from breastfeeding experts as propaganda. But it is the world in which we live, which is why the care over conflicts of interest suggested by the World Health Assembly is so important. And so, sometimes, is taking a stand.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Nestle angered by film on water

There is a report of a Nestlé representative allegedly out of a film festival the company sponsored in Nantucket during the screening of the film Flow, from the production company of Adam Yauch, a member of the band the Beastie Boys. According to the report on the website of the magazine Radar, the Nestlé rep. told an audience member the film was 'one-sided'. See:

I have left the following comment:

I've not seen Flow, but I know all about what Nestlé means by 'balanced' having seen the untrue comments it makes about its baby food marketing.

On water I investigated Nestlé's water bottling activities in São Lourenço, Brazil. Nestlé commissioned an 'independent' report from Bureau Veritas which said that Nestlé had complied with all legislation. I spoke with the auditors, who had also visited São Lourenço. They seemed unaware of the fact that the Public Prosecutor had taken Nestlé to court after receiving a petition from thousands of citizens of the town that relied on tourism to the water park, the springs in which were deteriorating due to the volumes of water Nestlé was pumping.

Bureau Veritas responded to me: "“our work did not constitute a legal audit as such, nor did it include a review of the on-going civil action".

Eventually the case was settled out of court, with Nestlé agreeing to stop pumping and compensate the town by reforming the park or pay daily fines.

So victory to the people of the town in the end. Sadly it took ten years.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Acting locally has a global impact

Why turn out to the demonstrate or leaflet against Nestlé malpractice? You meet other campaign supporters, you have fun, you learn about the latest with the campaign, you inform people who see the demonstration or take a leaflet and you have an impact that echoes around the world. All of which combines to keep the boycott in the public eye, keeps the pressure on Nestlé, helps to force changes in marketing policies and practices and encourages governments to stand up to company pressure and introduce enforced legislation.

Here is an example of this working in practice with an article on a South Korean news website tody. If you visit this site you will see a picture from the demonstration at Nestlé (UK) HQ last year:

It is in Korean and is about the impact of western governments and corporations on food policy and apparently has already received tens of thousands of visits on its first day.

So help spread the word around the world by acting locally!

We are currently planning for International Nestlé-Free Week which in 2008 will be around the 4 October. See:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Parenting websites and talk boards

If you run or use a parenting website or talk board and want to recommend it to others, leave the information in a comment on this blog entry.

And if you find anything that concerns you about the site, also leave a comment.

Our website link page includes links to UK mother support group, international agencies and some other resources that we think people might find useful.

However, we do not link to commercial sites and do not link to other parenting websites, talk boards of individual blogs. This is because we do not have the staff time to monitor the sites to confirm that they do not contain advertising or sponsorship from companies manufacturing products within the scope of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Nor do we want to recommend one forum over another as a source of information.

Instead our link page points to this blog entry and we leave it to you to recommend or otherwise these type of sites. Any commercial ones will be deleted.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Planning for Nestle free week - 4 October 2008

Nestlé-Free Week will take place around the 4 October 2008.

This marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the current boycott by Action for Corporate Accountability in the United States over the companies aggressive marketing of baby foods. Babies who are not breastfed are more likely to become sick and, in conditions of poverty, to die.

According to UNICEF: "Improved breastfeeding practices and reduction of artificial feeding could save an estimated 1.5 million children a year."

Nestlé failed to live up to an agreement reached in 1984 which ended an earlier boycott. Nestlé had promised to abide by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 as a result of the first boycott.

Baby Milk Action launched the boycott in the UK in 1989, but will also be marking the 20th anniversary in the first week of October 2008. Groups in 20 countries have launched boycott and it has supporters in many other countries. An independent survey in 2005 found Nestlé to be one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet, something Nestlé finally admitted in 2007. See:

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:

"The boycott has forced some important policy changes on Nestlé and we are able to stop specific cases of aggressive baby milk marketing thanks to public pressure, but the latest monitoring shows that Nestlé still thinks it can get away with breaking the World Health Assembly rules in many countries. In parallel to the boycott we have had a lot of success in bringing the Assembly measures into national laws and where these are enforced malpractice is stopped, showing companies can comply when compelled to do so. The boycott keeps this issue in the public eye and the pressure on Nestlé, the worst of the baby food companies."

Monitoring conducted by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) profiles the main baby food companies. See:

Nestlé has consistently been found to be the worst of the baby food companies. Boycott coordinators have put a four-point plan to Nestlé aimed at saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott. See:

Danone, which recently bought the NUMICO companies (Nutricia, Milupa and Cow and Gate) is becoming an increasing concern as it tries to compete with Nestlé in Asian markets. Danone told Baby Milk Action earlier this year that it is conducting a 'root and branch review' of NUMICO operations since the takeover and the situation is being monitored to see whether changes will be made without consumer pressure.

People interested in planning for local action can visit Baby Milk Action's websitew for support and resources. See:

The joint statement from Nestlé and the International Nestlé Boycott Committee on the end of the first boycott on 4 October 1984 can be downloaded from:

Coverage of the relaunch of the boycott on 4 October 1988 in the United States can be found in contemporary reports in the New Internationalist and the New York Times.

Note the US group included American Home Products (now part of Wyeth) in its boycott call. The boycott internationally has focused on Nestlé as global monitoring finds it to be the worst of the companies.

Monday, June 23, 2008

UK Government to be quizzed by UN Committee on its failure to act on formula marketing

As part of our UK campaign we have submitted reports to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. This reviews how well governments are doing on meeting their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Governments are called every five years to report. A network of Non-Governmental Organisations in the UK has also submitted a report, to which we contributed. We also submitted our own report via our partners, the Geneva Infant Feeding Association, which has been assisting national groups over the years.

The good news is, the Committee has written to the Government on 16 June specifically asking: "Please provide further information on the measures taken to implement the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.”

With good cause the Government should be shuffling its feet and bowing its head in embarassment.

In 2003, when the UK was last reviewed, the final report called for the UK Government to implement the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which it had failed to do.

In 2004 the Government introduced a public health white paper saying it would work for stronger regulations at the European Union level and strengthen UK legislation following this.

However, when it comes to present evidence in September the UK has little positive to say about its implementation of the Code. The EU Directive does not include key provisions that health advocactes - and the UK Government - was calling for, such as a prohibition on the advertising of follow-on formula as required by the Code.

The new Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations that came into force this year contain many of the same loopholes as the previous version. The recommendations of health advocates and even the Government's own expert advisors were not followed.

Not only are the regulations weak, they are poorly enforced, as our recent report to Trading Standards shows. See:

You can download the Government's submission from February 2008 and the Committee's request for additional information at:

It is article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that relates to breastfeeding. I will include the relevant parts of the response below. There is much that is commendable being done in the promotion and support of breastfeeding, which we have welcomed in our own submissions. However, protection is sadly lacking, not only with implementation and enforcement of the Code and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions, but in the protection of a mother's right to breastfeed in public.

Ironically the report includes the following: "The Breastfeeding etc (Scotland) Act 2005 is the first of its kind in the UK, which makes it an offence to stop or prevent a person feeding milk to an infant in a public place where the infant is legally entitled to be. Scotland is one of the few countries in the world to offer such protection in national legislation."

If you read this blog last week you will be struck by the contrast between highlighting the Scottish Act and the apparent plans for lesser measures in the Single Equality Bill. While the Scottish Act protects mothers breastfeeding or formula children up to two years of age in a public place, the Government was saying last year that the Single Equality Bill would protect breastfeeding in public upto one year of age, and more recent reports suggest this will only be for babies up to 6 months of age. See:

There is even a risk that the Single Equality Bill will conflict with and undermine the Scottish Act.

The Committee has a wide range of issues to address over the course of the two-day meeting, but we will do all we can to ensure that the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding are given adequate attention.

We have no funding for this work, so if you are able you can use the donation buttons on this blog to help. If you can't make a big donation, how about the £3 button for supporting the blog. We keep it free of third-party advertising and your support is much appreciated.

A further call for the Government to implement the Code may combine with the Government's current review of the legislation (to which we are contributing information) to bring in the long-overdue protection for breastfeeding and for babies fed on formula, as many other countries have done.

Here is the key section from the report.

---extract from the UK Government's report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Promotion of breastfeeding

336. The UK Government and devolved administrations continue fully to be committed to the promotion of breastfeeding, which is accepted as the best form of nutrition for babies. The Government has adopted the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) guidance and recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding alongside the introduction of complementary feeding.

337. The UK Government has a commitment to increase support for breastfeeding as part of its strategy to reduce health inequalities. The Priorities and Planning Framework 2003-2006 set local targets to increase breastfeeding initiation rates by 2 percentage points per year, focusing particularly on disadvantaged groups. This target has been included in Local Delivery Plans to support the national target on infant mortality for the planning period to 2008.

338. The Department of Health works in partnership with NGOs and other organisations, including UNICEF, to encourage hospitals to implement Baby Friendly Initiative policies. As part of this work, a new leaflet “Off to the best start” is intended to assist health professionals in teaching parents why breastfeeding is the healthiest start. Also, for the first time the Department has launched TV and radio “Filler” advertisements which will continue throughout 2007 and beyond to raise the profile of breastfeeding in England and Wales.

339. The Department of Health support the principles of the International Code for Marketing of Breast-milk substitutes and the relevant WHO resolutions, which are reflected in the European Directive on Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations and in the UK legislation.

340. The European Directive 91/321/EEC on Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula gives individual Member States the power to go further than the Directive in terms of restricting the advertising of infant formulas. It is in this context that the Department of Health has made a commitment in the Choosing Health: making healthier choices easier to review the relevant provisions of the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (1995), with a view to further restricting the promotion of infant formula.

341. The Department of Health is currently working with Food Standards Agency to look at ways in which the promotion of infant formula milk can be further restricted, through UK Regulations. A consultation on draft Regulations is due to be issued shortly and the final national Regulations will be in force from January 2008.

342. In addition the Healthy Start scheme was rolled out across England, Wales and Scotland in 2006. It provides nutritional support to mothers and infants from low income families. The scheme also provides incentives for mothers to breastfeed as they can obtain, via vouchers, healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables, free of charge.

343. In Scotland, over half of the babies are born in UNICEF baby friendly accredited hospitals, which mean that these hospitals have implemented measures to encourage breastfeeding, as recommended by the WHO. In addition, the Breastfeeding etc (Scotland) Act 2005 is the first of its kind in the UK, which makes it an offence to stop or prevent a person feeding milk to an infant in a public place where the infant is legally entitled to be. Scotland is one of the few countries in the world to offer such protection in national legislation.

344. In Wales, currently 46% of all Welsh births take place in baby friendly hospitals. A Grant Scheme has been established to train breastfeeding peer supporters with a particular focus on young mothers. A Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme has been established to encourage businesses to support breastfeeding mothers.

345. In Northern Ireland, since the development and implementation of the Breastfeeding Strategy there have been significant improvements to breastfeeding support in many hospital and community Trusts. These include the promotion and implementation of the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative, Sure Start programmes involvement in breastfeeding, and the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and peer support programmes.

346. As a result of the above measures breastfeeding initiation rates have been rising across all socio-economic groupings in the UK - 78% in England, 70% in Scotland, 67% in Wales, and 63% in Northern Ireland. The highest incidences of breastfeeding were found among mothers from managerial and professional occupations, those with the highest educational levels, those aged 30 or over, and among first time mothers. The Infant Feeding Survey 2005 published recently shows that 45% of all mothers in the United Kingdom were breastfeeding exclusively at one week, while 21% were feeding exclusively at six weeks. At six months the proportion of mothers who were breastfeeding exclusively was negligible.
---extract ends

Friday, June 20, 2008

Breastfeeding in public in the UK - more on the 6 months limit on protecting mothers

I wrote yesterday about an apparent backtracking on the UK government´s promise that it would protect the right of women to breastfeed infants up to one year of age in public. Media reports are now saying the Single Equality Bill going through Parliament this year will provide protection for feeding infants up to 6 months. This may potentially undermine Scotland´s protection of feeding in public of children to two years and disregards the calls of health advocates to have no specified age limit. See:

It is unclear what has prompted these stories as the government´s response to the consultation on the draft bill has still to be published. However, I see that on 11 June there was a government response to a petition someone had started on the Prime Minister own website. The petition called for a bill similar to that in Scotland, which protects mothers whether breastfeeding, or feeding with other milk, a child up to two years of age.

You can see the petition and the government´s response to it at:

I reproduce the government´s answer here, which sets out its overall strategy. Once again it shows the government´s failure to highlight the need to protect breastfeeding from the
aggressive marketing of the formula industry. While support and promotion of breastfeeding is welcome, the government is unable to compete with the massive resources the baby food industry spends on its promotion and should, instead, regulate this in line with World Health Assembly marketing requirements, which the companies should be abiding by in any case.

In addition, once again the government strategy neglects the need of mothers and carers who use formula for accurate and independent information on the differeneces between formulas on the market and how to use them as safely as possible. Companies do not provide objective information and do not even warn parents that powdered formula is not sterile and the simple steps that can be followed to reduce the risks of possible contamination with harmful bacteria.

My blog yesterday tell you action you can take to try to change the Single Equality Bill which is passing through Parliament. See:

---Quote - government response

The Government is committed to protecting infant health in the UK. It recognises the importance of breastfeeding as the best form of nutrition for infants, and the role it can play in reducing health inequalities. The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding alongside the introduction of complementary feeding thereafter. Breastfeeding is a key indicator in the recently announced Child Health and Well-being Public Service Agreement.

The Government has in place a range of ongoing initiatives to support and promote breastfeeding. Its main focus is to increase cultural acceptance, increase awareness of the health benefits, and provide suitable resources and advice on successful breastfeeding to mothers and health professionals.

In addition, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, as amended by the Sex Discrimination (Amendment of Legislation) Regulations 2008, prohibits discrimination on grounds of pregnancy or maternity in the fields of goods, facilities or services, and premises. For example, if a mother who was breastfeeding her baby in a cafe was asked to leave, she could bring a claim of direct sex discrimination against the proprietor, providing her baby is not older than 6 months.

The Government will continue to work towards developing an environment where breastfeeding is the accepted norm. Clearly, women need to be supported in their choice of breastfeeding. This year the National Breastfeeding Awareness Week was held from 11 to 17 May, and the NHS has launched a Breastfeeding Friendly Places Initiative to encourage shops, cafes and other retailers to welcome breastfeeding on their premises. This will provide a clear positive message to mothers that breastfeeding is welcome in public places and a good opportunity for the retailers to support mothers in giving their baby the best start in life. This will help to create a shift in people's attitudes to breastfeeding and have a positive impact on infant health.

---quote ends

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Is the UK government backtracking on protecting breastfeeding in public?

There is an article in today's Independent newspaper in the UK by journalist Johann Hari entitled There is a smart drug – it's called breast milk.

This looks at pressures on mothers to stop breastfeeding in the UK and in other countries, such as Bangladesh, and refers people to Baby Milk Action for additional information.

The article also refers to a proposed law that is starting its journey through Parliament, called the Single Equality Bill. This was put out to consultation last year and the lead story then as now was about it apparently protecting the right of mothers to breastfeed a child up to one year of age in public. Though the situation is still unclear, this article prompted me to investigate what happened as a result of the consulation and it appears the now mothers are only protected breastfeeding babies up to 6 months of age.

Part of the problem is the bill put out to consultation did not mention breastfeeding at all.

Here is how the government's Equality Impact Assessment describes the relevant provisions: "The consultation document makes clear that the Government will comply with the relevant provisions of the Gender Directive by making it explicit that less favourable treatment on grounds of pregnancy and maternity in the provision of goods, facilities and services and housing is direct sex discrimination. This will provide clarity for goods and service providers and consumers/service users about what the law means. The consultation document also proposes extending protection to the exercise of public functions."

You can download the pdf of the Impact Assessment at:

As I explained last year, maternity was defined as having a child up to one year of age, so the interpretation being put on this in the government press release was that if a mother was breastfeeding her child of up to one year (or surely feeding in any way?) and asked to stop, this would be seen as discrimination on grounds of maternity. But breastfeeding does not appear in the bill. In our response we suggested that it should and that there should not be an age limit.

According to the information about the Single Equality Bill proposals on the website of the Leader of the House of Commons today: "The Government consulted on these and related proposals in 2007 and will publish its response shortly. Further consultation is planned on specific issues to be dealt with in regulations is planned [sic]." See:

I have not been able to find the consultation response on the Communities website as yet, nor a revised draft Bill.

However, there does seem to have been some sort of change, judging from the briefing that journalists have received.

Last year the government's own press release was talking of the bill providing protection for breastfeeding in public for children up to one year of age. See:

Yet all the reports I have seen this time around are saying protection is for breastfeeding babies up to 6 months of age. Here are a couple of examples.

Daily Mail : 15 June 2008

Daily Mirror : 16 June 2008

So if these briefing are correct, in the past year the proposed time that mothers can breastfeed in public and be protect by the law has been halved to 6 months. In Scotland mothers are already protected feeding children up to two years of age, though it remains to be seen what impact the UK bill may have on this if there is a conflict between legislation.

We will have a clearer idea when the consultation response is released. In the meantime comments are welcomed on the site of the Leader of the House of Commons, who is Harriet Harman MP. Who also goes by the title of Minister for Women.

Click here if you wish to leave a comment calling for the period of protection to be extended.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Two weeks to put Nestle in the Corporate Hall of Shame

There are just two weeks left to put Nestlé in the Corporate Hall of Shame, promoted by Corporate Accountability International.

Their main focus is on Nestlé's bottled water business - they are also running a campaign specifically on this - but address other cases of corporate malpractice, such as Nestlé's baby food marketing.

You can vote here:

You can vote for three companies so check out some of the others while you are there.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Extended breastfeeding in the Mail on Sunday

There is an interesting article on extended breastfeeding in the Mail on Sunday, profiling Stella Onions. You can read the article at:

Stella's children are three and five years old. Although extended breastfeeding is common in some cultures, it is certainly not common in the UK, where less than half of all children are being breastfeed at 6 weeks of age. The World Health Organisation recommendation is exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months followed by the introduction of complementary foods with continued breastfeeding into the second year of life and beyond.

The headline is the most sensational part of the article: "'Mummy milk': The mother who insists on breastfeeding her children aged FIVE and THREE."

Insists, in the sense of not being dictated to by society. As the article states:

---extract begins
Julie Dean, of breastfeeding support group La Leche League, said: 'Toddler-feeding is not the norm but it has become more popular.

'Studies have shown that it is extremely beneficial for children as they grow up. It doesn't stop a child from becoming independent.

In fact they are probably better adjusted than other children because they can stop in their own time rather than when the mother thinks it's right.'
---extract ends

Reading some of the comments on the article gives a different impression, however. Here is one: "Sorry but this is obscene and I wonder how the parents of the friends feel! I am a little concerned that she is enjoying this more than the children!" and "I think this says more about the needs of the mother than the needs of her children."

Infant feeding can give rise to strong feelings, usually from mothers who felt they were not supported with breastfeeding or feel criticised to for not breastfeeding. Clearly some will also be criticised for breastfeeding for what some feel is too long.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ethical Corporation Magazine's analysis of Nestlé Shared Value report

Ethical Corporation Magazine, that most pro-company PR of publications, has taken rather surprising exception to Nestlé's Shared Value report in an article today. See:

There is good reason to do so, as our press release at the time of the report launch set out. See:

Ethical Corporation highlights to lack of objective targets regarding Nestlé's undertakings, ambiguity over whether it plans to develop them or is relying on historic performance and:

"Another gaping hole concerns transparency on Nestlé’s management of human rights and labour issues in its supply chain. While Nestlé claims a total of 3,400 supplier audits in 2007, it does not publish audit results or include any specifics on actions taken in the event of non-compliance. A search of Nestlé’s website yields no additional information. Given that Nestlé does not operate any of its own commercial farming activities, this seems a significant oversight."

We have repeatedly asked Nestlé for audits it claims to produce on its baby food marketing practices and have also written to the Nestlé Ombudsman on this issue, but received no reply. An overview of an audit does appear in the Shared Value report and is extremely flawed, for example using Nestlé Instructions as its starting point rather than the World Health Assembly marketing requirements. As we have exposed on our Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet, Nestlé violates its own weaker measures as well as the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the Assembly.

Yet Ethical Corporation is worryingly impressed by the baby food marketing audits and accepts at face value the claim the audits are against the Assembly measures stating: "As could be expected given past controversy, Nestlé rounds out the discussion with a nod to breastfeeding and a description of how the company is monitoring its compliance with the World Health Organisation International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. Nestlé makes a portion of these audit results available online, showing a clear record with no violations."

Which does highlight the flaw with the whole voluntary Corporate Social Responsibility approach. When claims are not woolly, they may be bogus. This is why campaigns such as the UK CORE campaign are calling for obligatory reporting standards for which a named director is legally responsible, in the same way as financial reporting has to be rigorous.

Suggestions in my contribution to the book Global Obligations for the Right to Food examine how this can be achieved at a global level for when national safeguards are ineffective.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A quick way for wealthy people to help protect mothers and babies in the UK

This is a day of good news and bad news for our campaign in the UK. So much progress, but so little money to take advantage of it.

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.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Politics of Breastfeeding - pre-order for October

The Politics of Breastfeeding is a book that has motivated many people to campaign to stop baby food companies aggressively marketing their products. It is an interesting and entertaining look at the history of breastfeeding and the culture that provides or denies support to mothers.

It was written by Gabrielle Palmer, a founder member of Baby Milk Action back in the days when it was set up by health and development groups and known as the Baby Milk Action Coalition. Gay, who qualified as a nutritionist and has worked for UNICEF, remains very active in working to protect infant health and mothers' rights, as a trainer, author and very popular speaker.

The great news is that The Politics of Breastfeeding has been updated and will be available in October.

We are taking pre-orders in our on-line Virtual Shop. See:

To help Baby Milk Action, Gay has agreed to sign a limited number of copies. We are offering these on a first come, first served basis for people who add a donation of at least £10 to their order to go towards our work.

When you read the book you will likely be angry at the way companies have and continue to put their own profits before health and the poor response to this from many governments. Campaigners have achieved a great deal to stop aggressive marketing practices and we can do more with your help, both financial and spreading the word. So please do order a copy of this book and, if you can, make a donation.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Brazilian breastfeeding conference and 1,600 mothers breastfeeding

I wrote yesterday about sponsorship of events on infant care and the need to be wary of conflicts of interest.

Baby Milk Action accepts no funding from commercial organisations. The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), to which we belong, has a policy members sign up to of accepting no funding from organisations with a commercial interest in how infants are fed, covering formula and bottle and teat companies as well as pump companies (that is pumps for expressing breastmilk). Pump companies are sometimes bottle companies as well, but even if not and even if code compliant, they have a commercial interest in how infants are fed. IBFAN wants no financial motives ascribed to its work to protect and promote breastfeeding. Our concern is infant health.

Pump companies are also controversial as their presence as a sponsor or exhibitor implies endorsement of pumps, whereas there are many breastfeeding counsellors who prefer to promote hand expression.

Last month I attended the Brazilian National Breastfeeding Conference in Belém, Para, a state in the north of the country which covers part of the Amazon delta. The location was chosen by IBFAN Brazil to strengthen the work of the network there and other breastfeeding support activities. The conference included the First Amazonian Human Milk Bank Conference, with training sessions for staff from milk banks, for example.

There were many sponsors for the event. With it being IBFAN Brazil I didn't have to concern myself about who they might be. At other events I have been caught out, with the surprise presence of a company like Tommee Tippee, for example, which is particularly aggressive in promoting feeding bottles.

So who were the sponsors? Well, as with all sponsors they appear prominently on conferencce publicity, such as the backdrop here at the closing ceremony where I am doing my impression of someone who speaks Portuguese.

(Picture copyright protected - ENAM closing ceremony)

Main sponsors were the state government and health authority, with support from the federal government, UNICEF, educational and health establishments, professional associations (including the baby friendly fire workers - representative sitting in the middle), the non-profit small business development agency (SEBRAE) and the state oil company (Petrobras).

Exhibitors were a variety of health organisations, educational establishments and crafts people.

Participants had to pay and with 2,700 registering, much more than budgeted, it was announced that there was a positive balance to go to future events (the next national conference will be in São Paulo).

There was media coverage of the conference and the event that kicked it off. This was billed as 1,000 women breastfeeding on the banks of the Guajara River. On the day 1,600 mothers actually turned up.

(Picture copyright controlled - Dr. Sonia and Mike de Oliveira Brady)

Here is a report on a Brazilian website with a picture.

(If you are interested in some pictures and thoughts on my day trip into the Amazon delta, take a look at my personal blog).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sponsored events and conflicts of interest

Regular readers of this blog will know that there are World Health Assembly Resolutions calling for care over conflicts of interest in sponsorship of health workers and programmes.

What is meant by a conflict of interest? Well, as a starting point consider that sponsors want their logos on the materials of a sponsored event and possibly materials on a stand or in a participants pack. These are opportunities that fundraisers for events will sometimes explicitely offer to possible sponsors - the opportunity to promote themselves and/or their products to a key target audience. Companies may well also want to mention their sponsorship in their materials, websites, to the media and so on to gain kudos from any good name you have and for their perceived generosity (even when the money comes from their Public Relations or marketing budget).

So if you are running an event on infant care and it is sponsored by a bank, then you would not be surprised to think the bank is hoping to give the impression it cares about the next generation - a good image for a bank - and wants to pick up a few customers. Or if it is a mobile phone company, it is wanting its name seen by participants, most of whom will use mobile phones and may remember the name next time they are considering a change or may be less likely to cross the road the next time they encounter a marketing person in the street.

Now you may not like particular banks or mobile phone companies and that may be a good reason not to have them as sponsors, but I would suggest there is not a conflict of interest here. How you care for a child or how you advise others to care for a child is not going to be affected if you feel a little more inclined to read a flier from one of the nice sponsors of your event than you might have been beforehand.

What if it is a washing powder company that promotes its products at the event? Babies are messy creatures and, while everyone uses washing powder, people do so to a greater degree when a baby is messing up its clothes and reusable nappies (if those are being used). Here the company has a direct interest in how you care for your child or advise others. They want their product to be used. Will favouring the sponsor over another company make any difference to the child and its family? Unlikely. Desite all the hype I would guess there is not that much to choose between washing powders so recommending one over another won't do much harm, other than using your time and good name.

Now what about bottle and teat companies and formula companies? Like all the types of companies mentioned so far they want their products to be used and recommended rather than competing ones. Again, despite the hype there is not really much to choose between the different commercial products on the market. Those added ingredients which companies build their marketing campaigns around have no proven benefits. And if they did, we would want to see those ingredients in all products. See:

But they are not only competing with each other. They are competing with breastfeeding. Putting 'breast is best' on labels and in small print as a grudging compliance with laws does not negate this fact.

Does it make a difference if a company complies with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions when considering whether there is a conflict of interest?

A code violator may be more effective at competing with breastfeeding, but a code complier is still, like the bank and the washing powder company, looking for a return on its investment. So, no, I don't see how it makes a difference. Their interest - making a profit from artificial feeding - conflicts with providing impartial advice.

What about companies seeking to profit from breastfeeding, like pump companies and nipple cream companies? They too are looking for sales, recommendations, image transfer, good PR, access.

You might not really care if a mother is more likely to use one bank over another or a mobile phone company rather than its competitor.

You might be clear that breastfeeding and independent advice for mothers who use formula should not be undermined by the presence of companies with competing objectives.

But do you want to recommend a particular breastpump, feeding bottle (for expressed breastmilk) or a nipple cream? Are you comfortable with other aspects of the business of the company that owns the particular brand or subsidiary company?

If you feel there is a conflict then there is a conflict of interest. If you don't feel there is a conflict then you are defending your sponsor. Which may be fine. But it is not a neutral position.

If you think it is not an issue because the money is for a good cause and marketing doesn't really work, then that is to misunderstand why companies invest money in sponsorship.

What's the best way through?

To have sponsors you feel comfortable with, whose ulterior motive of gaining a return on their investment does not conflict with yours.

The simplest solution is to have no commercial sponsorship like Baby Milk Action and limit what you do as a result (but we think we are more effective through having no commercial links).

If you do need sponsors then why not look to products and services that have no impact on babies and young children or, if they do, they are to be welcomed. Like a photography studio, perhaps?

As a final thought, you might think you do want formula companies at an infant care event to be able to learn about the new improved formulas they are putting on the market. If so, why not assign someone to take a look at the materials, investigate the references to see if claims are evidence based and provide an impartial briefing or presentation that puts whatever the new formula may be in context. It may be new improved, but will still provide sub-optimum nutrition compared to breastfeeding.

Monday, June 09, 2008

World Breastfeeding Week 2008

Here's a message I've just received about World Breastfeeding Week and a way you can draw attention to any event you are planning.

Announcing the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) 2008 Virtual Torch Run

WABA is pleased to announce the launch of the WBW 2008 Virtual Torch Run.

A virtual torch will be lighted up on the world map for every pledge that WABA receives for a WBW activity planned all around the world.

The WBW 2008 Virtual Torch Run is taking place now on the WBW website

All you need to do is to complete the pledge form attached and submit it to WABA and a virtual torch will be lighted up for you.

Please forward this news to as many people as you know and let us all participate in this virtual torch run for breastfeeding.

WBW 2008 Mother Support : Going for the Gold

Let the celebrations begin!!!!

Best wishes,

Julianna Lim Abdullah
International WBW Coordinator

P.S. Whilst WBW is officially celebrated from 1-8 August annually, there are many countries which celebrate during the months of October and November. To take part in the WBW Virtual Torch Run, all that matters is that you are celebrating WBW in the year of 2008.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Queen's Shredded Wheat

The Food Magazine (issue 81) has highlighted that the British Royal Family have awarded their coats of arms to some questionable companies. You can access the magazine for a fee here:

Here is a report picking up on the story in the UK Daily Telegraph.

On the list of companies with a royal warrant is our friend Nestlé and Nestlé Purina. You can search the directory at:

Companies become eligible : "By supplying products or services on a regular basis to: The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh or The Prince of Wales – for not less than five years. Suppliers to The Prince of Wales also have to demonstrate that they have a sustainable environmental policy and action plan."

So does this mean that Her Majesty The Queen eats shredded wheat or gives the corgis winalot? No. The Telegraph reports a Buckingham Palace spokesman saying: "Royal Warrants are a mark of recognition that a trade organisation has supplied the Royal household to its satisfaction. It doesn't necessarily mean that that particular product [bearing the coat of arms] has been used by the Queen."

It may be worth sending a message to the Queen's office asking if it would not be possible to apply some sort of ethical criteria, perhaps following ethical investment indices, such as FTSE4Good - Nestlé does not meet the policy nor the practice criteria to be listed due to its lack of respect for the World Health Assembly marketing requirements for baby foods.

Royal Warrants are actually awarded by the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household.

The Queen does know something of this issue. Our Policy Director, Patti Rundall, had a brief moment to explain our work to Her Majesty when she was invited to Buckingham Palace to receive a medal for 'services to infant nutrition' in the Millenium Honours List.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

World Environment Day: Infant feeding and climate change

Today is World Environment Day.

Colleagues in the Malta Breastfeeding Foundation have producted a power point show on infant feeding and the environment. You can download it (about 1 MByte) by clicking:

It looks at the resources used to produce formula compared to breastfeeding. Though it contains some figures on methane production from dairy cows, the rest of the production chain has not yet been quantified. Baby Milk Action has been trying to raise money to do this. We suggested in the Baby Feeding Law Group report submitted to the UK government consultation on its formula marketing regulations that it try to calculate the environmental benefit and cost savings of its proposed weak regulations in comparison with implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions (we were able to provide in our submission information on health benefits and associated savings from those). The government did not do so.

Brazil's implementation of the Code and Resolutions and promotion and support of breastfeeding has seen the median breastfeeding duration increase from less than 3 months to 10 months. That is a significant amount of formula and bottled not produced and transported and feeds made up. If other countries followed Brazil's example, the impact may be significant. We would like to commission someone to do the calculations. If you are interesed in helping to fund this or have the expertise, please let me know.

I would also be interested in feedback on the power point show. It is addressed to mothers, rather than policy makers. What do you think of this approach?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

New World Health Assembly Resolution - WHA 61.48

It was the World Health Assembly last week and a working group presented text on Infant and Young Child Nutrition for adoption.

The Assembly:

URGES Member States:

(1) to strengthen implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk
Substitutes and subsequent relevant Health Assembly resolutions by scaling up efforts to
monitor and enforce national measures in order to protect breastfeeding while keeping in mind
the Health Assembly resolutions to avoid conflicts of interest;

(2) to continue action on the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding and the
Innocenti Declaration of 2005 on infant and young child feeding and to increase support for
early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, in order to reduce the scourge of malnutrition and its associated high rates of under-five morbidity and mortality;

(3) to implement, through application and wide dissemination, the WHO/FAO guidelines on
safe preparation, storage and handling of powdered infant formula in order to minimize the risk of bacterial infection and, in particular, ensure that the labelling of powdered formula conforms with the standards, guidelines and recommendations of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and taking into account resolution WHA58.32;

(4) to investigate, as a risk-reduction strategy, the possible use and, in accordance with
national regulations, the safe use of donor milk through human milk banks for vulnerable
infants, in particular premature, low-birth-weight and immunocompromised infants, and to
promote appropriate hygienic measures for storage, conservation, and use of human milk;

(5) to take action through food-safety measures, including appropriate regulatory measures,
to reduce the risk of intrinsic contamination of powdered infant formula by Enterobacter
sakazakii and other pathogenic microorganisms during the manufacturing process as well as the risk of contamination during storage, preparation and handling, and monitor the effectiveness of these measures;


The UK supported the Resolution, which is hopefully is a good sign as we look to the authorities to take action on the marketing practices exposed in the monitoring report I wrote about yesterday. See:

The full text is available at:

This is marked as draft, but I believe it is as adopted. It will be available in due course on the WHO site in various languages.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

BFLG monitoring report May 2008

Many thanks to everyone who has submitted information on what baby food companies are up to in the UK to the monitoring project we coordinate for the Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG).

As a new development, we are producing quarterly monitoring reports which are being submitted to the enforcement authories now that our new regulations and associated Guidance Notes have come into force.

You can download the report from the BFLG website at:

It profiles the main UK formula companies - and Nestlé which is trying to break into the market.

The cover shows the battle of the beasts - the cute animals used by companies to make their products the most appealing. Who would have thought that formula is a nutritional medicine?

The marketing practices shown in this report are restricted to those believed to be illegal under UK law. They are not necessarily the worst marketing practices in the UK as the law allows many practices that are violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly and are illegal in many other countries. (Earlier reports, such as Hard Sell Formula, give an overview of strategies).

Some of the practices we believe have been illegal since formula marketing regulations were first introduced in the UK in 1995. There has only been one prosecution in all this time - in 2003 for illegal infant formula advertising by Wyeth/SMA. Although convicted of a 'cynical and deliberate' breach of the regulations, similar advertisements continue to run.

Perhaps this will change now that there are new Regulations and Guidance Notes.

In three months time, if resources allow, we will produce another round up, showing what action has been taken, any resulting changes and new marketing strategies.

Monday, June 02, 2008

UK Guidance Notes - our press release

Today we have issued a press release about the new Guidance Notes published in the UK to accompany the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 2007.

This includes some of the measures the industry has opposed, as described in the last couple of blog entries here. See the press release at: