Breaking the Rules - Stretching the Rules 2010 (BTR) is published by IBFAN’s International Code Documentation Centre (ICDC) in Penang, Malaysia. BTR examines the marketing activities of the major infant feeding companies using the International Code and subsequent relevant resolutions (the International Code) as benchmarks. Unlike industry funded analyses, BTR looks at real labels and promotion - not just what companies SAY they do. Some companies will dismiss this report out of hand but anyone wishing to understand how marketing undermines infant health should buy a copy.
The global market:
The baby food market exceeds US$24 billion per year according to global marketing reports. Double-digit growth is forecast for several regions up to US$38.7 billion by 2015. So the pressure to increase market share is intense - even by governments (see New Zealand story below).
Although 77% of countries have taken some action to implement the Code, monitoring and enforcement are still inadequate, particularly when laws and legal systems are weak. Only effective national legislation, properly enforced and monitored - independently from the companies - can protect child health.
Health facilities especially those not Baby Friendly, are still the preferred avenue for promotion, providing much sought after ‘medical endorsement.’ Prescription pads with formula pack shots to tick are used all over the Middle East. Free formula donations are still provided - in secret - to private clinics and hospitals along with offers of services, sponsorship and gifts.
Branding: “Premiumization”. “Gold” and “Premium” logos are used to suggest a higher grade and more expensive formula. In Singapore, ‘premium’ cereals are all the rage. Toddler/Growing-Up Milks are also on the rise.
Online marketing is much less costly than print advertising and keeps mothers’ attention for longer. Baby Clubs build brand loyalty with personalised sequencing of gifts, baby record booklets and samples. Wyeth (now owned by Pfizer) gets mothers to confirm they have read the ‘breast is best’ message before moving to promotional sites.
Claims Galore for prebiotics, probiotics, bifidus, lutein, DHA, ARA, Immunofortis - scientific sounding terms used to baffle and mislead parents.
Sponsorship and conflicts of interest: The majority of national paediatric associations are dependent on the largesse of companies - four are even endorsing products. Sponsorship of infant feeding programmes is a conflict of interest and is not allowed by WHA resolutions.
Incentive schemes: For the first time in years, incentive schemes, prohibited by the Code, are used by Wyeth-Pfizer and Dumex-Danone.
New Zealand’s Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee stated in October:
“A kilo of infant formula is worth ten times the value of a kilo of milk powder, so it’s obvious which product New Zealand should be selling.”
New Zealand earned more than $750 million from milk formula exports in 2009.
Source: Radio New Zealand News 29 October 2010.