Friday, December 21, 2007

That's it for 2007

There will be a break with the blog until early in the new year.

There has been a lot going on during 2007. Two highlights for me are the contrasting fortunes of mothers and babies in the Philippines and in the UK.

In the Philippines campaigners supported the Department of Health in facing down the power of the baby food companies and the US Chamber of Commerce. In October we welcomed significant new controls on the marketing of baby foods following a ruling of the Supreme Court, which lifted a restraining order on Department of Health regulations.

There is a report rounding up some of the actions taking place around the world in our Update 40 newsletter. You can download this at:

Meanwhile in the UK the government received unanimous support from health professional bodies, mother support groups and other health advocates for stronger measures here. The Baby Feeding Law Group report Protecting breastfeeding - Protecting babies fed on formula called for implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions, which the government claims to support and which many other countries have already introduced in legislation.

In the UK, however, the government has followed the industry line of introducing only minimal changes to the legislation. It has not even introduced the measures called for by its own advisors, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and LACORS (the umbrella body for Trading Standards officers who will have to try to enforce the regulations).

It was a disappointing end to the year, particularly as 2007 began with us welcoming a crackdown by UK authorities on illegal health claims on labels. After 12 years of campaigning, since the 1995 regulations were introduced, our monitoring evidence had finally been heeded and companies were called on to change their labels.

Unfortunately there has been no visible follow through on the crackdown as new labels have been introduced that continue to use health claims not on the list permitted by the law. As a result the latest IBFAN (International Baby Food Action Network) report, Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2007, shows the UK in a very poor light, as an apparent test bed for new idealizing marketing strategies.

In 2008 we will continue to campaign for stronger regulations in the UK and no doubt will have to work to defend and encourage enforcement of the regulations in the Philippines and other countries.

The Breaking the Rules report shows that while companies develop their tactics, the strategy remains the same: undermining breastfeeding to increase sales of formula and misadvising parents who do use formula as companies do not want to be honest about the risks and how to reduce them lest they put people off their products.

Nestlé is shown to continue widespread and systematic violations of the marketing requirements using strategies that it is defending publicly, demonstrating continued pressure from the boycott is essential as it can cause the market leader to back down.

In a significant development, Nestlé's Global Public Affairs Manager admitted that Nestlé is 'widely boycotted'. Beforehand Nestlé's Chief Executive Officer, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, had dismissed the findings of independent surveys to claim the boycott had little support. See:

Nestlé sets trends others follow. NUMICO is trying to compete with Nestlé, particularly in Asian markets, and we have seen an increase in violations from it, to the point where it is rivalling Nestlé. With the takeove of NUMICO by Danone, IBFAN will put a similar plan to it as that already put to Nestlé: accept the validity of the marketing requirements and bring policies and practices into line or face consumer action.

So we can expect 2008 to be as busy as 2007. Some things will have got better in some parts of the world. In some places things are worse. One thing is certain, without this campaign and your support many more babies would suffer needless suffering and even death than is currently the case.

Have a good break if you are getting one and see you next year!

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