If Campaign: don't forget strong legislation controlling baby food and junk food marketing.

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If Campaign: don't forget strong legislation controlling baby food and junk food marketing.


We  are pleased  that the baby food industry was excluded from the IF campaign -  but the rationale for this decision has not been made clear or public.  Unless conflicts of interest are properly tackled the whole push for 'partnerships' with corporationsalongside the emphasis on micronutrient interventions will  become the  perfect cover for corporation's top  strategic objective -  the expansion of the market for expensive and unsustainable ultra-processed foods.   People are  forgetting that breastmilk and real  family foods actually do contain essential nutrients. 


All the evidence -  including the just published Lancet series - shows the critical importance of addressing poor infant and young child feeding practices in child survival and stunting. But there's no point talking about breastfeeding and how marvellous it is, if you don't protect it. That means bringing in laws to tie corporations down and stop them undermining it.  This starts with formulas for newborns, and the host of new formulas and products for older babies and children - all hyped up with claims of added micronutrients.  


Bringing in truly effective marketing regulations is not something that sits well with the partnership approach.    Of course businesses do have a role in development, and may well have some good innovative ideas -  but everything they say should  be evaluated carefully for unintended consequences - and they should be brought into help only after health policies and directions are set.  (CLICK HERE for IBFAN's concerns about the Scaling Up nutrition Initiative. )



The International Baby Food Action Network Network (IBFAN) the 33 year-old global network that works to protect, promote and support breastfeeding and optimal  complementary feeding, is pleased that ahead of next week's G8 summit,  the “Enough Food For Everyone” IF campaign is drawing attention to  malnutrition  -  an outrage that we must all address. 

The campaign's focus on land grabbing, tax dodging,  transparency and the support of small farmers is also welcome.  So too is the acknowledgement of the importance of breastfeeding.   However, this must be carefully handled if the emphasis on fortification is not to be hijacked by corporations intent on selling unhealthy foods.  

Many large food corporations are already using the 'prevention of malnutrition'  as the perfect cover in pursuit of their  top strategic objective -  to change  traditional food patterns and replace local foods with ultra-processed foods (1) - foods with a long shelf life that are invariably expensive and unsustainable.

Most recently, in Mexico, in the Crusade Against Hunger  Nestlé - the world largest food company and the subject of an international Boycott for its aggressive marketing of baby foods - has offered to train 15,000 women to sell deserts and to give nutrition advice.  While Pepsi has offered to develop a special fortified formula for pregnant and nursing mothers - a strategy that will almost certainly undermine women's  confidence in their ability to  breastfeed and will pave the way for yet more formulas. 


These strategies are  sometimes  portrayed as a win-win solution for the economy and development  but they have huge risks - not only for child survival and family budgets, but also in relation to the double burden of malnutrition, both under and over nutrition.  Mexico has one of the world's highest levels of obesity and one of the lowest breastfeeding rates. 


All over the world companies are using wild and misleading micronutrient claims to suggest that formulas protect children from infection and make them  cleverer - so much so that  people are forgetting that  breastmilk alongside diverse healthy  family foods invariably contain all the essential nutrients  children need!   


All the evidence - including the just published  Lancet  Maternal Child Nutrition  series -shows the critical importance of breastfeeding and sound complementary feeding and that the implementation of World Health Assembly recommendations (1,2) should be an essential core factor in addressing child malnutrition,  alongside wisely targeted fortification of staples.  Paper 4 in the Lancet series: The politics of reducing malnutrition: building commitment and accelerating progress,  states:   "Governments need to play their part by  enshrining the code and subsequent resolutions into  national law, and putting independent, transparent, and  effective monitor ing mechanisms in place" 

 While many governments do have legislation and controls in place, these laws  are under threat from the same corporations, who also work to undermine global foods standards at the Codex Alimentarius level (3) .  Since many processed  baby foods are of inferior quality, with high levels of sugar and other additives, IBFAN has been working for many years  to develop  standards that are as strong as possible that could be brought into national legislation to ensure that ALL  baby foods and formulas meet sound safety and nutrition standards and are responsibly marketed.  

Patti Rundall, Co-Chair of IBFAN's Global Council says: "We welcome the fact that the IF campaign so far has NOT included the baby food companies such as Nestlé and Danone,  recognising the clear conflict of interest. However, since the campaign strongly promotes the involvement of the private sector,  the risk of undue influence remains and should be clearly explained and publicised.  Isn't this what transparency is about? While  businesses of all kinds and sizes  will always play an important tole in development,  they should never be allowed to influence nutrition policy setting  - especially if they have a vested and commercial interest in the outcome.  Health policies must  be based on truly independent and objective science. Innovative ideas - however alluring  - should  be evaluated carefully in the public interest  by those who have a duty to protect public health."

 Dr Arun Gupta,  also Co-Chair of IBFAN's Global Council, and National Coordinator of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India,  says:  "It is essential that  governments implement legislation that will protect will protect breastfeeding and sound child nutrition  and stop the misleading commercial promotion that is undermining it,.  The companies are now using all kinds of strategies to promote sweetened  expensive and unnecessary formulas and foods  for older babies  that share  the same branding as formulas for new born babies.  Unless our regulations keep pace all our efforts to protect infant health will be sabotaged."


For more information contact: PattiRundall: 07786 523493



 (1) CLICK HERE for  Profits and pandemics: prevention of harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol, and ultra-processed food and drink industries.  

This defines 'Ultra-processed products' as being "made from processed substances extracted or refined from whole foods—eg, oils, hydrogenated oils and fats, fl ours and starches, variants of sugar, and cheap parts or remnants of animal foods—with little or no whole foods".  http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2812%2962089-3/abstract  


The World Health Assembly recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding alongside family foods for 2 years and beyond.  

(2) The Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding calls on Member States to provide: "sound and culture-specific nutrition counselling to mothers of young children and recommending the widest possible use of indigenous foodstuffs will help ensure that local foods are prepared and fed safely in the home. The agriculture sector has a particularly important role to play in ensuring that suitable foods for use in complementary feeding are produced, readily available and affordable….. In addition, low-cost complementary foods, prepared with locally available ingredients using suitable small-scale production technologies in community settings, can help to meet the nutritional needs of older infants and young children. Industrially processed complementary foods also provide an option for some mothers who have the means to buy them and the knowledge and facilities to prepare and feed them safely. Processed-food products for infants and young children should, when sold or otherwise distributed, meet applicable standards recommended by the Codex Alimentarius Commission and also the Codex Code of Hygienic Practice for Foods for Infants and Children."

(3) The Business of malnutrition: breaking down trade rules to profit from the poor    http://info.babymilkaction.org/pressrelease/pressrelease24nov110


CLICK HERE  for Baby Milk Action's  UPDATE 45 newsletter -  with many other stories including 

CLICK here for articles in the Observer 9.6.13   and HERE

CLICK Here for Guardian comment

The Crusade Against Hunger  in Mexico where Nestlé - the world biggest baby food company - is being asked to train 15,000 women to sell deserts while giving 'nutrition education' and Pepsi is creating a milk for mothers - which all almost certainly undermine confidence in breastfeeding.  (pages 6-7)   Also  CLICK HERE and HERE

New legislation in Kenya, South Africa and Cambodia controlling the marketing of products targeting young children (pages 14 &15)

IBFAN's concerns about Public Private Partnerships  in nutrition campaigns. (pages 23-26)

IBFAN's  World  Breastfeeding trends Initiative - outlining how to improve breastfeeding rates (pages 10-11) 

Latest news about Nestle and Danone and the company takeover of Social Media (pages 18-21)


Click here for a  Look What they are doing in the UK   a report on what the companies are doing in the Uk

CLICK here for new Study linking bottle feeding to obesity

CLICK here for  WHO Bulletin  Breastfeeding policy - a globally comparative analysis  shows that  "A greater percentage of women practise exclusive breastfeeding in countries where laws guarantee breastfeeding breaks at work. If these findings are confirmed in longitudinal studies, health outcomes could be improved by passing legislation on breastfeeding breaks in countries that do not yet ensure the right to breastfeed."

CLICK HERE for news about discussions at the World Health Assembly about Conflicts of Interest and Non Communicable Diseases.  Click here for our efforts to get into the United Nations dressed as Kelloggs', Tony the Tiger  and  Ronald MacDonald.