Do You Know That Inappropriate Advertising & Marketing Of Breast Milk Substitutes Is A Violation Of A Global Public Health CODE Of Conduct

YOU might have been doing it subconsciously but did you know that promoting and marketing substitutes for breast milks such as infant milk formulas , Cereals, purity and other foods and substances for baby feeding is against a World Health Organisation (WHO)  set Code of conduct for all manufacturers and distributors of breast milk substitutes.

By Michael Gwarisa

The Code dubbed the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes seeks amongst other things to protect breastfeeding mothers from consuming promotional material which may lead to them abandoning breast feeding their babies in pursuit of substitutes.

According to Nutritionist and researcher in the department of nutrition in the Ministry of health and Child Care (MoHCC),Mr Dexter Magwena said infants were vulnerable beings a

In view of the vulnerability of infants in the early months of life and the risks involved in inappropriate feeding practices, including the unnecessary and improper use of breastmilk substitutes, the marketing of breastmilk substitutes requires special treatment, which makes usual marketing practices unsuitable.

“The Code aims to protect and promote breastfeeding by ensuring appropriate marketing and distribution of breastmilk substitutes. The Code applies to breastmilk substitutes, when marketed or otherwise represented as a partial or total replacement for breastmilk,” said Mr Changwena

Breastmilk substitutes include food and beverages such as infant formula, follow-up milks, other milk products, cereals and vegetable mixes, juices and baby teas. The Code also applies to feeding bottles and teats.

According to the Code, no advertising or other forms of promotion to the public is permitted  of products under “Scope.” No free samples to mothers, health care workers or their families. The also does not allows the promotion of products, i.e. no product displays, posters or promotional materials at healthcare facilities and also there should not be any use of mothercraft nurses of similar company-paid personnel.

“No gifts or samples to health care workers. Product information must be factual and scientific. No free or low cost supplies to health care system. (i.e. no free formula or bottles, etc.) Informational and educational materials should explain the benefits and the superiority of breastfeeding, the health hazards associated with bottle feeding, and the costs of using infant formula.

“Unsuitable products, such as sweetened condensed milk, should not be promoted for babies.  All products should be of a high quality (Codex Alimentarius standards. Product labels must clearly state the superiority of breastfeeding, the need for the advice of a health care worker and a warning about health hazards.  No pictures of infants, or other pictures or text idealising the use of infant formula.”

The CODE also prescribes that governments should take action to give effect to the principles and aim of Code, as appropriate to their social and legislative framework, including the adoption of national legislation, regulations or other suitable measures. On the other hand,  Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), professional groups, individuals   are expected to inform companies and governments about violations of Code.

The however  does not prevent availability and sale of baby food, bottles & teats. It does not prevent “freedom of choice.

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