Baby food companies exposed as evidence presented to UK Parliament and Lancet study reinforces list of health risks of artificial feeding

A study in the today's Lancet showing the increased risk of heart disease for bottle-fed babies reinforces the list of health risks of artificial feeding (click here for Guardian report). This news comes as the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) launches its latest monitoring report documenting how baby food companies idealise their products, ignoring the negative health impact of artificial feeding. Evidence gathered through monitoring of baby food companies in 69 countries was presented at the House of Commons on 13 May.

The Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2004 monitoring report analyses the promotional practices of 16 transnational baby food companies and 14 bottle and teat companies between January 2002 and April 2004. The benchmark standards used for measuring marketing practices are the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly (WHA) Resolutions.

Some 3,000 complaints were received from monitors in 69 countries around the world. After legal checking about 2,000 violations were reported in Breaking the Rules and many of these came with photos.

Yeong Joo Kean, IBFAN's Legal Advisor said:

"We have 712 pictures of actual violations in the report. There is now way that the companies can deny that they were found in flagrant violation of the Code and Resolutions."

Click here for an overview of the report, which highlights the following trends in violations:

  • 'Functional' claims. Companies try to differentiate their formulas by adding a string of additives and then claiming performance benefits for these.
  • Free and low-cost supplies contine.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months continues to be undermined by most companies.
  • Information to health professionals. Companies violate the requirement that this is restrict to scientific and factual matters.
  • Health facilities and health workers continue to be targeted.
  • Sponsorship of medical seminars, conferences and associations of medical professionals is becoming more widespread.

Click here to download the full 94-page report containing profiles of the big 16 baby food companies: Abbott-Ross, Danone, Dumex, Friesland, Gerber, Heinz, Hipp, Humana, Mead Johnson, Meiji, Milupa, Morinaga, Nestlé, Nutricia, Snow and Wyeth. The major bottle and teat companies are also evaluated.

Country summary reports with the title Look What They're Doing have been prepared for the following countries:

Typical company responses to reports of violations are available on the Baby Milk Action website.

For further information contact: Mike Brady, Baby Milk Action, 23 St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX, UK.
International Tel: +44 1223 464420 - Mobile: +44 7986 736179
UK Tel: 01223 464420 - Mobile: 07986 736179

E-mail: mailto:[email protected]

Notes

  1. Contact details for companies implicated in the monitoring are available from Baby Milk Action. Baby Milk Action and Nestlé have taken part in head-to-head interviews in the past (Nestlé’s Senior Policy Advisor on its infant nutrition business, Beverley Mirando, can be contacted on +44 208 6675317). Examples of past inadequate responses to reports of violations can be found in the ‘codewatch’ section of the Baby Milk Action website: www.babymilkaction.org

  2. The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 as a ‘minimum requirement’ to be implemented in its ‘entirety’ by all countries. Under Article 11.3 manufacturers and distributors of products within the scope of the Code are required to ensure their activities at every level comply, independently of government measures. Subsequent Resolutions address questions of interpretation and changes in scientific knowledge and marketing practices. Company policies are very different from the Code and Resolutions, for example, referring only to infant formula. Monitoring demonstrates systematic and institutionalised violations of the Code and Resolutions as well as the companies’ narrower policies.

  3. The World Health Assembly is to discuss infant and young child nutrition at its meeting during the week of 17 May. At the preliminary World Health Organisation (WHO) Executive Board meeting in January 2004, the normal practice of preparing a draft Resolution to address current concerns was sidelined. Enterobacter Sakazakii contamination of powdered formula and the long-term health disadvantages of artificial feeding are key issues the industry does not wish to be addressed. Surveys, following the death of an infant in Belgium from meningitis attributed to contaminated Nestlé formula, have found a high proportion of tins of formula are contaminated during the manufacturing process after pasteurisation. At its recent AGM, Nestlé refused to unilaterally provide warnings on its labels (see Baby Milk Action press release 22 April).

  4. According to UNICEF: “Improved breastfeeding practices and reduction of artificial feeding could save an estimated 1.5 million children a year“ (State of the World’s Children 2001). This is equivalent to one needless death every 30 seconds.

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