WHA 64: Consumers International/IBFAN statement on Infant and Young Child Nutrition.

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Consumers International /IBFAN statement on WHO's  draft implementation plan on  Infant and Young Child Nutrition. 20th May 2011

Statement delivered by Annelies Allain, Director of IBFAN's International Code Documentation Centre. 


Thank you Mr Chairman for allowing me the opportunity to speak on this agenda item on behalf of Consumers International, the global federation of consumer organisations worldwide and an IBFAN founding member. 

We commend the WHO Secretariat on the development of a comprehensive draft implementation plan on infant and young child nutrition and we are pleased to have had the opportunity to contribute our comments.

We note that by shifting the focus towards nutrition in general, the importance of protection, promotion and support embodied in breastfeeding and complementary feeding, is minimized. Similarly, there is hardly any reference to human rights as a basis for action, with corresponding obligations. The focus is on the 5-year period towards MDGs. We strongly support the long term 10 year time frame and urge it to be developed in the framework of human rights, social justice, and in line with the Alma Ata principles. 

The protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding has led to important achievements over the past 30 years. However, it is premature to describe this as a global success story when full implementation of the Code and resolutions through binding measures remains far from adequate and under continued threat. The most recent edition of IBFAN’s Breaking the Rules 2010 report gives 500 examples of Code violations from 46 countries by 22 companies. Another report, the IBFAN World Breastfeeding Trends initiative, tracks policies and support toward breastfeeding outcomes in 40 countries and also concludes that much remains to be done to achieve optimal infant and young child feeding. We cannot rest on our laurels, neither can governments.

For the 30th anniversary of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, IBFAN has produced a brand new State of the Code chart which we will happily distribute to all Member States, if only we had an official way to do this. It shows how 33 countries are to be congratulated for having implemented all provisions of the Code into law. Another 34  have made many provisions into law, while 42 lag behind in third place. This includes all EU countries whose Directive does not meet the minimum standard under the Code, although the region has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates.

The industry participation in the implementation of the plan as envisaged in the report is of great concern. The WHO report suggests their involvement in regional and national consultations from the very outset, without any mention of conflicts of interest.  Dr Chan said yesterday: Track them, pick the good ones, leave the bad ones !  

IBFAN  has been tracking baby food companies for years and has recently again published the evidence. In our experience there seem to be only bad companies and none have earned the "trust" Dr Chan is calling for. The role of the industry is defined in paragraph 44 in the Global Strategy for IYCF as compliance with the Code and with manufacturing standards according to the Codex Alimentarius. That’s all.

If the role of industry is expanded into policy setting, the effectiveness of the recommendations for policy and program implementation will be compromised at all levels.

Thank you, Mr Chair for giving us the floor.



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World Health Assembly 64th Session

 Agenda item: 13.13