"a butterfly flapping it's wings in one area of the world, can cause a tornado in another part of the world"
Letter from Dr K Weerasuriya MD (Cey). FRCP (Lond) PhD (Lond), Former Professor of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, SRI LANKA to Members of the European Parliament Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee.
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"I am writing to you primarily as a Health Care Professional in the Developing world and secondarily as the former Professor of Pharmacology of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. I was also the Secretary of the Drug Registration Committee of the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka from 1995-2001. I am therefore familiar with health products, claims and their commercial promotion.
I understand that the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee will soon be voting on a Resolution objecting to the authorisation of the health claim ‘DHA has a structural and functional role in the retina and DHA intake contributes to the visual development of infants up to 12 months of age’ for use on follow-on formulas and baby foods.
I strongly urge you to vote for this resolution.
Dr. Colin Michie, FRCPCH, Chair of Nutrition, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has stated
"It is inappropriate for infant milks or follow-on formula preparations to carry health or nutrition claims. These claims inevitably imply an advantage for such feeds over breast-feeding. Such declarations are especially problematic when independent and well respected authorities such as the Cochrane Library cannot identify evidence to support them. Infants are particularly vulnerable citizens that all of us need to consider particularly carefully. If a food additive is demonstrated on an independent review of scientific data to be safe and essential for infants, it should be added to all feeds and not promoted with a claim."
I strongly agree with this and provide some information on how this will affect promotion of such products in the developing world.
Often the examples of legislation and regulation from the developed world are taken as the starting point in the developing world. While it is argued that developing world countries would use their expertise to make decisions, many have insufficient expertise and trust that the developed countries placed health as the first priority. The legislation then often is a "copy and paste" which is appropriate when health is the priority. The claims mentioned above on infant milks or follow-on formula preparations do not have health as the first priority.
Allowing such claims would allow those promoting such foods in the developing countries to put commerce above health and would be especially tragic as breast milk would be marginalised.
Disallowing such claims would give a strong signal to the developing countries on priorities in health. It would strengthen the efforts of those who are involved in regulations in health, and provide a strong signal for health as the first priority.
In this globalised interconnected world, what a committee does in Brussels can (and will) have an effect in nutrition of infants in the developing world - a butterfly flapping it's wings in one area of the world, can cause a tornado in another part of the world.
Dr K Weerasuriya MD (Cey). FRCP (Lond) PhD (Lond)
Former Professor of Pharmacology
Faculty of Medicine
University of Colombo,
Colombo, SRI LANKA
PS To give you an example of the "inflation of promotion" that occurs, the proposed claim for DHA is the "functional role of of the retina"; in Sri Lanka it is already "mental development".