Struggles for Regulations won

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South Africa - scope to three years of age

South African health campaigners are celebrating the adoption of the Regulations Relating to Foodstuffs for Infants and Young Children. This covers the marketing of products for children up to three years of age and was gazetted on 6 December 2012, a great way to mark the start of the World Breastfeeding Conference in India. (See page 4).

Implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981, was diverted in South Africa when in 1986 the industry agreed a voluntary code of conduct with the Department of Health. This was ineffective and the industry responded to calls for regulations by forming the Freedom of Commercial Speech Trust in 1997 to argue that it was against their constitutional rights to prohibit advertising of products (Update 21). 

The first draft of the new regulations was produced in 2003 and it took nine years to bring them into force in the face of constant pressure from the industry. In 2003, Nestlé attempted to buy a photo-opportunity with Nelson Mandela by offering to present a £500,000 cheque to him for his Children’s Fund via film director and actor Richard Attenborough (Update 33). The Fund turned it down, telling the media (iAfrica) that it was not the first time, "given the Nestle debacle in relation to HIV/Aids infected mothers and their campaign on promoting formula milk as opposed to breast milk and the disadvantages they put out publicly regarding breast feeding, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund declined the donation." Nestlé took British MPs on an free trip to visit South Africa in 2008 and one, Tom Levitt from Buxton, where Nestlé bottles water, (who also accepted gifts of sports tickets from the company) took to defending the company publicly (Update 41, Update 43). 

IBFAN has gathered evidence of agressive marketing practices throughout this time and more than once Baby Milk Action supporters have sent messages of support to the South African Government to counter industry lobbying. In the final consultation on the regulations just adopted, the industry again claimed they were unconstitutional, tried to limit them to products up to one year of age and opposed the ban on baby food company sponsorship. In parallel with this, the industry tried to recruit health workers to their cause, saying they would gain Continuing Professional Development points from company-sponsored events if the law allowed them. Now the Regulations are in force, the harm caused by aggressive marketing can start to be reversed.


Vietnam - scope to two years of age

IBFAN calendar

In June 2012 the Vietnamese National Assembly voted overwhelmingly (90% in favour) for the new Advertising Law which prohibits the advertising of baby milks for children up to two years of age and complementary foods up to 6 months of age. 

• The US Embassy in Hanoi wrote to the President of the Assembly and Government Ministers urging against a ban on advertising formula milk products for babies above the age of 12 months. 

Left: This picture from Vietnam by Martien van Asseldank featured in the IBFAN Calendar 2012.



Kenya - scope to three years of age

Kenya's new Law, the Breastmilk Substitutes (Regulation and control) Act 2012, finally came into force on 26 October 2012. As in many other countries, this is a story of concerted action by civil society and UN bodies to encourage policy makers to take action, and delays as they were diverted towards voluntary codes by the industry. In the final stages, as the Law awaited the President’s signature, Kenya came under pressure to weaken the proposals from GAIN, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, who in a lobby paper suggested that proceeding with the law would threaten "Kenya’s ability to meet its commitments as a Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) country." (See page 25).

The following chronology is based on a presentation at the World Breastfeeding Conference (page 4).

1981: Kenya supports the adoption of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes at the World Health Assembly.

1983: Civil society through the Breastfeeding Information Group (BIG) supports the Ministy of Health (MoH) to draft first Breastmilk Substitutes Bill. However, this becomes a voluntary standard under the Kenya Bureau of Standards

1984 - 2001: Attempts to translate the marketing requirements into law are unsuccessful.

2002: MoH is supported by UNICEF to train an Attorney General lawyer on the Code.

2003-2007: Several more unsuccessful attempts to progress with legislation.

2008: Small core team formed of MoH UNICEF, WHO, IBFAN (Kenya), University of Nairobi. Attorney General provides a new lawyer to redraft with new WHA recommendations 

2010: Draft Bill submitted to cabinet by Minister for Public Health

10th August 2012: Draft Bill gazetted for public review (10 days)

29th August: First reading in Parliament

12th September: Second reading – debate

20th September: Committee of the full house, motion was passed with few amendments

26th October: His Excellency President Mwai Kibaki assented and published the law as The Breast milk Substitutes (Regulation and Control) Act 2012.

The law prohibits the promotion of designated products, which includes infant formula and follow-on formula (defined as milk for use up to two years of age, including milks for special medical purposes) and complementary food products (defined as products for infants from 6 - 36 months of age). 

A National Committee on Infant and Young Child Feeding is established to oversee the law, which shall not include "a person who has a direct or indirect interest in the manufacturing, distribution, marketing, advertisement or promotion of a designated product or complementary food product". It also prohibits all forms of company samples, gifts, sponsorship, grants, conferences and courses to health workers. Sanctions include up to three years in prison.


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