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WHO and Follow-on formula 

The baby food industry continues to argue that follow-on formulas are not covered by the scope of the International Code and that its marketing of these products is not a problem.

The World Health Assembly declared in 1986 that follow-on milks are ‘not necessary’ and the scope of the International Code clearly includes “...other milk products...including bottle-fed complementary foods, when marketed or otherwise represented to be suitable, with or without modification, for use as a partial or total replacement of breast-milk.”

We wrote to WHO about a rather unhelpful paper on its Nutrition website, written by James Akré, which was also on Nestlé’s Q&A webpage. We were pleased when this text appeared on the WHO website: “The briefing note on “Follow-Up Formula in the Context of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes” is presently being considered for revision by the World Health Organization pending review of new and emerging information on the subject. It has therefore been decided by the Organization to withdraw the current version of the briefing note from its website.”


Conflicts of interest

A “Critical review of WHO’s report on “evidence  of the long-term effects of breastfeeding..... with respect to obesity”1 concluded that a statement that “breastfeeding causally reduces the risk of overweight obesity is unwarranted.” In his “Disclosure of Financial Interest” (2005), one of the two authors, Dr. David B Allison, reveals grants and payments from over 100 companies including Coca Cola, Gerber, M&M Mars, Merck, Nutricia and Pepsi. In 2008 Allison tried to block a New York City ruling that restaurants list the calories of menu items, by writing an affidavit as a paid consultant on behalf of the restaurant industry. Following criticism from members of the US Obesity Society Allison resigned before taking up the position of President of the society. Obesity Reviews MB Cope and DB Allison

Menu Fight Over Calories Leads Doctor to Reject Post, STEPHANIE SAUL, New York Times, 4.March 08

  • The American Academy of Family Physicians has prompted outcry and lost members over its new six-figure alliance with Coca-Cola to fund educational materials about soft drinks.
  • See our poster: Infant Feeding and Obesity


Danone will face boycott if it does not shape up

Nestlé once claimed to control about 40% of the baby milk market, but the latest Euromonitor report (page 6) gives its share of the global baby milk and baby food market as 26% following its takeover of Gerber. Danone is in second place on 14% following its takeover of the NUMICO brands (Nutricia, Milupa/Aptamil, Cow & Gate).

Baby Milk Action contacted Danone after the takeover calling for it to bring marketing practices into line with World Health Assembly standards. In the last global monitoring roundup, Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rule 2007, Danone and NUMICO combined were responsible for more violations than Nestlé, particularly as NUMICO tries to compete with Nestlé in Asia (we have already documented how Nestlé drives down standards - see Update 41).

However, as Danone didn’t own NUMICO at that time and has promised a ‘root and branch review’ of NUMICO’s operations, it has been given the benefit of the doubt as far as a consumer campaign is concerned. But its time is running out. IBFAN groups around the world continue to report violations and Danone shows no sign of bringing its policies and practices into line with the International Code (see page 10). Examples will be collected for the next Breaking the Rules report and if Danone is found to be as bad Nestlé it will surely be time to call a boycott.

ACTION: The Nestlé boycott focuses on Nescafé, its flagship brand, though we list all the products from which it profits. If there is to be a boycott of Danone, which product do you think should be the principal target, not including products that may be essential to health such as infant formula?

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