Much to celebrate, but much to do

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30 years of IBFANIt was 30 years ago that six citizen’s groups, including a member of the Baby Milk Action Coalition, formed the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN).

A celebration in Geneva (page 4) recalled how this came about and honoured the many people who gave pivotal support to its aims.

After celebrating the successes and the many lives the campaign has undoubtedly saved, IBFAN Europe’s conference focused on planning and training to meet the latest challenges. As industry analysts have stated: “The industry is fighting a rearguard action against regulation on a country-by-country basis.” (page 6)

In the UK the industry has been winning. The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe and, with the help of the European Commission, the industry is successfully blocking implementation of the International Code, despite every health worker and mother support organisation, the Government’s own advisors and enforcement bodies calling for stronger measures. A draft report of an ‘Independent Review’ of the 2007 Regulations shows that the Independent Review Panel has wasted public money asking the wrong question (“Are babies under six months being fed follow-on formula by mistake instead of infant formula?”) rather than examining whether the regulations are fulfilling their stated purpose of protecting breastfeeding. We examine how the Government has got it so wrong and what needs to be done to protect infant health, and ensure that all mothers - those who breastfeed and those who use formula - do so on the basis of truly independent information (pages 9 - 10).

At an international level we look at the policy changes in the USA that are coming in under the new administration (page 7). We also examine how UN Business ‘partnerships’ are influencing health policies and threatening food security. Under the banner of ‘enlightened self interest’ and ‘wellness’ the industry is now on ‘a noble cause’ and is fuelling a craze for branded fortified foods with health and nutrition claims - a key marketing strategy for ‘adding value.’ (page 8 & page 17)

We examine the weaknesses in European process for authorising claims. Our position on formula is that if an ingredient is necessary to reduce its shortcomings, it should be a requirement for all formula, without claims being made. (page 12)

Through the Baby Feeding Law Group we are helping to close loopholes in the marketing regulations in the Philippines (page 15).

Worryingly, Nestlé launched a new strategy at its AGM, claiming its formula ‘protects’ babies - it doesn’t, babies fed on it are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies, and in conditions of poverty, they are more likely to die. The boycott is part of our strategy to force Nestlé to respect the marketing standards (page 19 - 23). We invite you to send a message to Nestlé and help us stop Nestlé’s ‘protect’ claims. Campaigns like this really work as our latest victory in the UK demonstrates (page 3a).


Safer formula campaign victory

Finally! In 2002 the tragic death of a five-day-old child in Belgium highlighted that powdered formula is not sterile and may contain harmful bacteria, such as Enterobacter Sakazakii. Simple steps reduce the risks, but companies refused to warn parents or update their labels - until now. After seven years of campaigning, new warnings that powdered formula is not sterile have started to appear on SMA, Cow & Gate, Aptamil, Nurture and Hipp branded formula in the UK. 

The instructions and health claims are still not right - but it’s progress!

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