In May, 1981, after seven years of review and debate, the World Health Organisation adopted an International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes. Designed to improve the health and nutrition of infants and children, the code set out rules and legislations designed to regulate “innappropriate sales promotion of infant foods that can be used to replace breast milk.”
It’s now thirty years later, and the goal of “health for all by the year 2000″ has languished in the face of poverty, lack of education, natural disasters, and the disregard of formula companies for the code.
Nestle, the world’s largest baby food company, has – according to the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN)- committed over 134 violations of the code around the world in the past year alone. In reaction to the report from IBFAN, Nestle has agreed to address four of those violations. The other 130 it has chosen to ignore.
According to INFACT Canada, the formula industry in Canada continues to undermine the efforts of public health to support mothers in breastfeeding.
They do this on four identified fronts, all of which are identified as violations by the WHO code:
providing free samples to pregnant women and new mothers;
providing hospital discharge sample packs for new mothers;
directly advertising their products to the public via all forms of media;
using misleading and scientifically unproven nutrition and health claims to glamourise their products.
What else can public health, the medical community as a whole, and breast milk supporters do to counteract the efforts of large, multinational corporations? When will our governments take these violations seriously and act against them?