News from the Philippines

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Coping with Typhoon Ondoy

This year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme was Breastfeeding - a vital emergency response. The messages were heeded at the end of September when Typhoon Ondoy ravaged MetroManila with floods and muds which swept homes and humans away without mercy. The IBFAN group in the Philippines, Arugaan, together with La Leche League, Latch, Peace and Joy Mission Group and the Community Groups of the City of Taguig, helped with wetnursing, relactation and breastfeeding counselling in the evacuation centres. Pasteurized human milk was cupfed by volunteer doctors and university students at the evacuation center.

Photo: Arugaan


Closing loopholes in the Law

At the Nestlé AGM in April, in response to our question about its bad warnings on labels in the Philippines, Nestlé claimed to be ‘confused’ about how to implement the Regulations. The Baby Feeding Law Group wrote to the Philippine Secretary of Health, Francisco T Duque III in May, highlighting how a weakness in the Guidelines on Labelling regarding warnings about intrinsic contamination is being exploited.

Our concerns were heard and a new draft law, fixing this and several other loopholes could shortly be adopted.The draft Law, has been discussed for the past two years and despite industry’s attempt to water it down, still maintains the important provisions that are needed. It will hopefully do the following:

  1. clarify the scope of the law (to include complementary foods and milks for pregnant women);  
  2. impose a total ban on adverts for products for infant and young children up to two years of age; 
  3. screen products from two years old and above; 
  4. ensure that the labels correctly carry the WHO recommended procedure for safe preparation of Infant Formula and that the warning about intrinsic contamination is accurate; 
  5. empower the regulatory body with additional powers to enforce administrative sanctions, fast tracking the processing of violations and fines; 
  6. provide an avenue for citizen action so that complaints can be filed directly with a court instead of through a regulatory agency.


Professor Björkstén’s visit

In Update 19 and since we have highlighted how, in 1993, Professor Bengt Björkstén of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden was critical of Nestlé and ‘hypo-allergenic’ claims. So we were disappointed to find that in the last year Nestlé, and an industry-funded organisation, ‘Working for Working Mothers’ (WOW) sponsored him on trips to the Philippines. This prompted a complaint to the Bureau of Food and Drugs that WOW violated the Law in relation to the sponsorship. During his 2008 trip Prof. Björkstén suggested that babies born by caesarian section are immune suppressed. In March 2009, adverts promoting a new Nestlé infant formula for caesarian babies, Nan Pro Gold, claiming ‘probiotic’ protection, appeared in New Zealand. But in April Björkstén said in an email to us: “I am not aware of any serious scientist who is recommending probiotics and omega-3 to infant formulae, although they may be of some benefit.”


Send for the Campaign Pack, which includes a DVD from UNICEF Philippines showing how claims on milks for older babies undermine breastfeeding in the Philippines.

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