Conflicts of Interest and Infant feeding at the WHO Executive Board Meeting

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CLICK HERE for decision on MIYCN

IBFAN is granted status as an  NGO working in official relations with WHO

IBFAN and WHOIBFAN and WHOFrom left to right

Lida Lhotska, IBFAN Regional Coordinator for Europe,

Dr Francesco Branca, Director, WHO Department for Nutrition and Health Development

Dr Elizabeth Mason, Director,  WHO Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health 

    Patti Rundall,  Co-Chair, IBFAN’s Global Council. 


WHO's  EXECUTIVE BOARD (EB) meeting (EB134) in Geneva began on 20th January and ended on the 25th.  Conflicts of Interest, WHO's interactions with 'Non State Actors' have been hot topics. The EB decided to refuse ISDI (the baby feeding industry) official status but accepted IBFAN and GAIN.  CLICK HERE

NEW!   CLICK HERE for IBFAN's briefing on why it is a misnomer to call  GAIN an NGO when it has a clear commercial objective "to reach 1 billion people by 2015 with nutritious food." WHO's current valid NGO policy explicitly defines NGOs as those groups that are “free from concerns that are primarily of a commercial or profit-making nature.”   

GAIN now claims that it disbanded its Business Alliance in December 2013 - just 3 months after GAIN launched a new Business Platform for Nutrition  Research  in New York in September.  The Alliance is still featured on the GAIN website along with  the logos of member companies: Pepsico, Coca Cola, GlaxoSmithKline, Cargill, Kraft Foods, Hershey’s, Tate & Lyle and Brittania and DSM (a manufacturer of ingredients of breastmilk substitutes). GAIN’s Board also contains representatives from food companies, such as Brittania and Renata. 

The Business Alliance apparently merged with - or was 'folded into"  the SUN Business Network (SBN) at the Davos World Economic Forum this week, to be “overseen by an Advisory Group made up of business and including civil society” - which of course includes GAIN.

NEW!  CLICK HERE for PRESS RELEASE  GAIN, a wolf in sheep's clothing, will try once again to enter WHO's policy setting process

NEW!  CLICK HERE for article in the Times of India 

NEW!  CLICK HERE for WHO's paper mapping  its engagement with Non Sate Actors.

CLICK here   and HERE  for previous IBFAN briefings  on Non State Actors

This week, GAIN sponsored a nutrition feature in the Guardian with a headline: “Empowering pregnant women to seek out fortified foods” – cleverly replacing “advertising to” with “empowering”.   This strategy of promoting fortified foods and supplements, not only creates major market opportunities but can undermine women’s confidence in breastfeeding and sustainable family foods.  It can also undermine small farmers and smallholders in the developing world, who play a critically important role in ensuring local food security.

WHA 55.25 2. URGES Member States, as a matter of urgency: (4) to ensure that the introduction of micronutrient interventions and the marketing of nutritional supplements do not replace, or undermine support for the sustainable practice of, exclusive breastfeeding and optimal complementary feeding





1   Maternal, infant and young child nutrition 


2   Standing Committee on Nongovernmental Organizations

Click Here  for IBFAN's Briefing on these two topics

3      Framework of engagement with non-State actors 

NEW!  CLICK HERE for IBFAN/CI statement on Non State Actors

 CLICK HERE for IBFAN's Briefing on this issue


1 Infant and young child nutrition

Since 2014 is a reporting year for infant and young child feeding and WHA 65.6 called for “clarification and guidance on the inappropriate marketing of foods for infants and young children” a new Resolution is needed to: 

Request that WHO provides guidance on how to address Conflicts of Interest in nutrition.  This is especially important since the report mentions Private Sector and the public-private partnership Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) 8 times. There is currently no over-arching WHO Policy on COI to provide such guidance

Recognize the work done regarding clarification on inappropriate marketing of foods for infants and young children and as per WHA65.6 request WHO to continue work on this issue and provide guidance;  

Recommend that Member States begin addressing this problem effectively at policy level by using the following 5 criteria.  Promotion is inappropriate if:

1. it undermines recommended breastfeeding practices;

2 it contributes to childhood obesity and noncommunicable diseases;

3. the product does not make an appropriate contribution to infant and young child nutrition in the country;

4. it undermines the use of suitable home-prepared and/or local foods;

5. it is misleading, confusing, or could lead to inappropriate use.

Promotional claims about micronutrient ingredients and other inappropriate marketing of baby foods contribute to poor rates of exclusive and continued breastfeeding and, when such products are high in sugar, can increase obesity, an underlying factor in the risk for non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Such promotion can also undermine confidence in local foods and harm local food security. Formulas and supplements for nursing mothers, can also undermine confidence in breastfeeding.


Standing Committee on Nongovernmental Organizations: GAIN, ISDI etc

CLICK HERE for the decision from the last EB to

CLICK here for the list of NGOs currently in official relations with WHO


Entities such as ISDI, Croplife International,  ILSI  and the Industry Council for Development   are currently in official relations with WHO   even though they represent the private commercial sector and are guided by market profit-making logic (whose PRIMARY interest clashes inevitably with that of WHO). Conflating the ‘not-for profit’ status and the ‘not working in the interest of profit-making’ is one of the key reasons why such entities gained NGO status.

IBFAN welcomes the proposal in the paper EB 134/8 on Non-State Actors that the work of the Standing Committee on NGOs is made public.  Because its currently confidential it is not known how many entities will be reviewed or considered in the EB 134 this week.  However IBFAN is applying and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) will resubmit its application following the decision of the 132nd Executive Board to: “…postpone consideration of the application for admission into official relations from The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition to the Executive Board’s 134th session, and requested that the following information be provided to the Board through its Standing Committee on Nongovernmental Organizations: information concerning the nature and extent of the Alliance’s links with the global food industry, and the position of the Alliance with regard to its support and advocacy of WHO’s nutrition policies, including infant feeding and marketing of complementary food”     

With assets of $61million, GAIN claims to work with 600 companies and civil society organisations. “GAIN’s goal is reach 1.5 billion people with fortified foods that have a sustainable nutritional impact.”    Following complaints from IBFAN GAIN has now ‘divorced’ from the baby food manufacturer Danone.   However, because GAIN is focusing on the first ‘1000 days’ many other global food companies who market foods and supplements for infants, young children and nursing mothers are members of GAIN. IBFAN considers that it is a misnomer for GAIN to be listed as an NGO and accepted into official relations with WHO when it has such a commercial objective.  Indeed this would go against WHO's current valid NGO policy. 

The Standing Committee is composed of 5 member states: Malaysia, Myanmar, Namibia, Panama and Lebanon.    




Other issues on the agenda that we will be following:

Monitoring the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals




IBFAN Briefing MIYCN SCNGOS5.pdf146.06 KB
IBFAN NSA Briefing HP5.pdf180.61 KB
GAIN briefig final2.pdf151.17 KB
CI MIYCN statement Agenda 7 2.pdf116 KB
CI IBFAN statement NSA 5.4.pdf107.39 KB
14_PRESS_cuttings_MEDIA ALERT_GAINUNGA.Digital Journal.pdf480.37 KB
MIYCN DECISION EB134_DIV3-en.pdf227.59 KB