Brazilian Breastfeeding Conference - message of solidarity for campaign against Nestle's 'protect' baby milk marketing strategy

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[The following message has been received from the Brazilian National Breastfeeding Conference (10 - 12 June 2010) - Encontro Nacional de Aleitamento Materno (ENAM) - regarding Nestlé's latest global breastmilk substitutes marketing strategy and Baby Milk Action's campaign to stop this. It is UK Breastfeeding Awarness Week at present (21 - 27 June)]

Participants at the ENAM Conference are concerned to learn that Nestlé is promoting its breastmilk substitutes around the world with the claim its products 'protect' babies. Like Nestlé we know that babies fed on breastmilk substitutes are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die.

We are pleased that in Brazil Nestlé's marketing strategy is against our laws and our laws have been strong enough to stop Nestlé using the strategy here. We are disturbed to learn that Nestlé is using the strategy in 120 other countries.

Article 9.2 of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is very clear: "Neither the container nor the label should have pictures of infants, nor should they have other pictures or text which may idealise the use of infant formula." [emphasis added]. Article 11.3 of the Code is clear that manufacturers and distributors should abide by its provisions independently of government measures. 

The latest Resolution adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2010 calls once again for these measures to be implemented and for additional action to prevent infant feeding products being promoted with health claims that have not been explicitly approved.

Accordingly, we call on Nestle to respect the Code and remove these labels from the market with immediate effect.

We recommend that governments follow the example of Brazil and introduce the Code and subsequent, relevant Resolutions in strong legislation and enforce this. Breastfeeding rates have been recovering in Brazil in recent decades due to the efforts being made here to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

We send a message of solidarity to everyone around the world who is taking action, big and small, to hold Nestle and other companies to account for violations of the Code and Resolutions.

Notes from Baby Milk Action

Brazil has introduced progressively stronger regulations implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly. These prohibit all advertising and promotion of products for children up to two years of age (in the UK advertising of follow-on formula for use from 6 months of age and complementary foods, often promoted from 4 months of age, is commonplace). Brazilian regulations also require prominent Ministry of Health warnings on labels of such foods, whole milks and feeding bottles and teats. Breastfeeding rates in Brazil declined after Nestlé entered the market at the beginning of the last century. Rate have increased from less than 3 months median duration in the early 1980s to over 10 months today. Baby Milk Action has asked supporters to send messages to Brazilian policy makers several times when the dairy industry has lobbied to weaken the regulations. For further information, see this blog from 2007. Nestlé, principally, now focuses on sponsoring health workers in Brazil, creating conflicts of interest in violation of World Health Assembly Resolutions.