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COM(2009)647 final

Comments by Baby Milk Action/IBFAN  January 15th 2010


Baby Milk Action welcomes the opportunity to comment on the important issues raised in this Consultation.

As members of the global network, the International Baby Food Action Network, we have worked for over 30 years to  protect infant and young child health through the strengthening of independent, transparent and effective controls on the marketing of the baby feeding industry. Since EU-Based companies control a large proportion of the global baby food market, EU policies have an important influence on infant health not only within the EU but  globally. 

Aware of the need for a global solution to the problem of inappropriate marketing, in 1981, the 34th WHA adopted the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in the form of a recommendation. Member States  were urged to translate it into national legislation, regulations or other suitable measures and to monitor compliance with it. The Code’s position is that commercial products should be available when needed, but should not be promoted. Resolution WHA34.22 by which the WHA adopted the Code stressed that adherence to it "is a minimum requirement and only one of several important actions required in order to protect healthy practices in respect of infant and young child feeding" The Code was not merely adopted as a recommendation for developing countries, but for the entire membership of WHO. All EU Member States are signatories to the Code and the the 13 subsequent WHA Resolutions which have strengthened and clarified it.  All developed and developing countries have an obligation to give effect these provisions.

There is no food more locally produced or sustainable than breastmilk – and while breastfeeding is the optimal and natural way to feed all babies, globally reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save aproximately 1.5 million lives around the world every year. EU-based companies contribute to these avoidable deaths and the ill health of thousands more 

The Strategy must therefore to take account of the EU’s obligation to ensure  a high level of human health  and  environmental protection in all Community policies and  activities and ensure that the EU raises rather than lowers public health and human rights protection. As long as EU policies fail to meet even the UN minimum requirements, an imbalance inevitably will exist in all trading arrangements with countries with ‘stronger’ legislation.

If trade is to be used as a tool for development which can in turn alleviate poverty – a claim often made by companies and policy makers - these issues have to be addressed.  In any case – trade considerations should never  outweigh the EC’s commitment to protect health,  the environment and human rights. Transparency, accountability and regulation to protect the most vulnerable in Europe and for ensuring an appropriate influence globally, are cornerstones for the delivery of a sound strategy for Europe.

With this in mind we recommend that the Strategy:

  • Calls for policy coherence between EU policy and practices and UN recommendations.
  • Highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability of the EU policy making process, ensuring that public health, environmental impact and inequalities are included in impact assessments. The Framework Directive PARNUTS should be scrapped in favour of a more accountable and transparent system for creating legislation on dietetic foods.
  • Requires official logs of the meetings between EU officials and industry, helping ensure greater transparency and a better balance of exposure to different stakeholder views.
  • Reminds EU-based companies of their obligations under UN recommendations. For example, Article 11.3 of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes,  states: 11.3 Independently of any other measures taken for implementation of this Code, manufacturers and distributors of products within the scope of this Code should regard themselves as responsible for monitoring their marketing practices according to the principles and aim of this Code, and for taking steps to ensure that their conduct at every level conforms to them”
  • Advocates legislative rather than  self-regulatory approach to the marketing of baby foods and foods high in fat, salt and sugar. The Strategy should cknowledge the lack of evidence that  SR  is  an adequate way to limit the extent and impact of harmful marketing. SR is difficult to monitor because companies work to their own codes of practice and these can vary over time and from country to country and sometimes from shop to shop. There is no common benchmark on which to judge effectiveness of these measures. Voluntary codes drawn up by companies are also usually narrow, full of loopholes, and entirely dependent on industry's goodwill. If companies choose not to behave, very little can be done. With a very few exceptions – and despite vigorous claims to the contrary – companies continue to market products in violation of the International Code wherever it is not effectively implemented in legislation. 
  • Advocates the banning of  all health and nutrition claims on foods for children, pregnant and nursing mothers and calls for the Traffic Light System on the front of junk foods.
  • Highlights the needs for adequate maternity protection.
  •  Strengthens its procedures for ensuring independent monitoring of the activities of EU-based companies within the EU and in third countries. The EU should either find funds to carry out this task, or encourage Member States to do this at national level.
  • Discourages incentives (tax rebates etc) or subsidies on breastmilk substitutes or junk foods.
  • Highlights the need to address conflicts of interest, ensuring that the food industry is not involved in the production of educational materials intended for use in schools and health care systems. The Convention on the Rights of the Child  calls on governments to protect children from exploitation and the World Health Assembly Resolutions on Infant Feeding and Diet and Physical Activity contain safeguards against conflicts of interest. These Conventions and Resolutions should be used to ensure that health and education facilities are commercial free environments. The world’s largest corporations also have the largest marketing and public relations budgets so are invariably the most keen to provide 'sponsorship’ for schools and health care facilities. They are aware that such strategies can divert attention away from irresponsible and socially harmful practices and can distort perceptions of the role corporations are playing in society. It is often forgotten that sponsorship is a form of marketing. Within industry circles ‘corporate social responsibility’ is closely linked to ‘cause-related marketing’ and a public relations sector has grown around this concept.
  • Recommends that the provision of public services (health or education facilities etc) are not bound by rules of commercial confidentiality.
  • Calls for health policies to be informed by and based on evidence which includes independently reviewed and independently funded research.
  • Recommend that EC policies raise standards of consumer protection globally, not lower them.
  • Discourages rather than promotes PPPs.  The Strategy should use greater care in its definitions and terminology and should not promote PPPs. The term Public Private Partnership, should, wherever possible be replaced with “Interactions with the Private Sector’  (See minutes of the HLG meeting on Governance of PPPs, Oct 2008.)


For more information

Patti Rundall

Baby Milk Action,  34 Trumpington St, Cambridge, CB2 1QY

Work Tel: 01223 464420, Mobile: 07786 523493, Fax: 01223 464417



 Breastmilk substitutes are legitimate products for when a child is not breastfed and does not have access to expressed or donor breastmilk. The International Code and other UN requirements, do not ban the sale of products, but protect all parents rights (those who breastfeed and those who decide to artificially feed)  to accurate, independent information.

  These obligations are wide ranging, but a specific concern of IBFAN is  the need to control the marketing of breastmilk substitutes, baby foods and junk foods. This means strengthening EU legislation to incorporate all the recommendations of the  Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding, the  International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and  subsequent relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions, the  Blueprint  for Action on the Promotion, Protection and support of breastfeeding. the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health and  the Convention of the Rights of the Child. 

 IBFAN’s Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2007 

 EUROPEAN  PLATFORM ON DIET AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY Short minutes "Workshop PPP's on governance" 21 October 2008 Luxembourg. Including NGOs and EU Member States, Ireland, Finland, Belgium. Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark.

 Richter. J, Public-Private Partnerships and International Health policy Making, How can public interests be safeguarded? Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, DPIU

Baby Milk Action Marmot.doc64 KB
BMA NICE Obesity2.doc131.5 KB
BMA on 2020 Final.doc40.5 KB
BMA PARNUTs Sep09.doc47 KB
BMA Product Placement.doc83 KB
DCSF report.pdf1.58 MB
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