Monday, October 22, 2007

Changing laws to better protect breastfeeding and infants fed on formula is in the news

Several media reports of note over the past few days. A news item in the British Medical Journal on our report on the need to strengthen the UK baby formula marketing regulations. And reports on developments in the Philippines following the Supreme Court lifting the restraining order on the marketing regulations there.

So first welcome coverage for the report we produced for the Baby Feeding Law Group: Protecting breastfeeding - Protecting babies fed on formula. This is available at:

The British Medical Journal ran a news item on this in its 20 October edition available in summary (a fee for downloading) at:

The BMJ highlights our call for improved warnings and instructions on labels to reduce risks of formula feeding as well as ending promotion to protect breastfeeding and to ensure all parents, carers and health workers receive accurate, independent information. Save the Children and UNICEF are quoted - thanks to them for their support for the campaign.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, we and our partners in the Philippines welcomed the lifting of the restraining order on regulations there, but I was surprised that parts of the media suggested this was a victory for the industry. An article in the Manila Standard Today also questions why the media put this spin on the Supreme Court's decision. See:

The article, by Attorney Rita Linda V. Jimeno, states:

---extract begins
When the Supreme Court released its decision on the case Philippine Health Care Association of the Philippines vs. Secretary Francisco Duque (GR no. 173034, Oct. 9), 2007), newspaper headlines and stories bandied that the Supreme Court had lifted the ban against advertising of milk. To many, it meant that Supreme Court favored the position of milk companies more than that of the Department of Health. Some women e-mailed or commented to me that it was a pity the cause of the breastfeeding advocates was lost. Some had a mistaken sense that it was all right after all, to feed infants with milk formula rather than breast milk.
---extract ends

I queried when the misleading headlines came out who had been briefing the journalists. It does indeed appear there has been a negative impact. See:

The Supreme Court did not uphold an ourtight ban on advertising of breastmilk substitutes, but did uphold the powers of an Inter-Agency Committee to vet all marketing materials and to require changes or prohibit any it judges to be inappropriate. The Court ruled that an outright ban over stepped the powers in the primary legislation.

The Daily Inquirer reports that the Department of Health is not going to appeal that decision, but is going to seek changes to the law. See:

"[Secretary of Health] Duque said the DOH would instead propose changes to the Milk Code and also support the passing of new laws on breastfeeding, now pending in Congress, that will better reflect the government’s intent in seeking to protect the health of mothers and infants."

It is great to see that politicians and policy makers in the Philippines are taking action and the Court has put health before narrow trade interests.

Let us hope the UK's policy makers will do the same.

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