Baby Formula Makers Still Breaking Global Markering Rules: Report
Almost all parents and pregnant women in China, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom are exposed to "aggressive" formula milk marketing campaigns that breach global rules set up after scandals more than 40 years ago, according to a new report, Jennifer Rigby reported for Reuters.
Photo Insert: Could now be the time to reform the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes?
The marketing techniques can push women away from breastfeeding and include everything from giving free samples to executives setting up or joining "mums' groups" on popular messaging apps, the report from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and M&C Saatchi said.
Health workers are also targeted, with gifts, funding for research, and even commission from sales, all practices that are banned under international guidelines for the marketing of formula milk. The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for newborns, where possible, as the healthier option.
The report's authors and several external experts said it was time to reform the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. The code was set up by WHO in 1981 in a bid to regulate the industry after scandals in the 1970s when Nestle was accused of discouraging mothers, particularly in developing countries, from breastfeeding.
Nigel Rollins, lead author of the report and a WHO scientist, told Reuters in an interview: "Are there areas for strengthening the code? Unquestionably." Formula milk and tobacco are the only two products for which there are international guidelines to prevent marketing.
Despite this, only 25 countries have fully implemented the code into legislation, and over the last four decades, sales of formula milk have more than doubled, while breastfeeding rates have only slightly increased, the WHO said. The formula milk industry is now worth $55 billion annually.
The report found that more than half of the 8,500 parents across the eight countries surveyed - Bangladesh, China, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam – reported exposure to marketing, much of which was in breach of the code.