27 Feb 2018
This new cross-sector report, Don’t Push It, highlights how misleading and inaccurate marketing of breastmilk substitutes (BMS) is putting babies’ lives at risk by undermining breastfeeding and preventing families from receiving clear, evidence based information about infant feeding.
The report reinforces Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative’s call on UK governments to protect families from harmful commercial interests by adopting, in full, the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent resolutions (“the Code”).
While the need for certain infants to be formula-fed is recognised, much of the infant formula market growth stems from powerful marketing campaigns that have led mothers to limit or abandon breastfeeding. As a result, worldwide breastfeeding rates are low, with the UK having some of the lowest rates in the world.
The problem is global despite overwhelming and resounding evidence that breastfeeding saves lives, improves health and cuts costs in every country worldwide, rich and poor alike. For example, if all children were breastfed, it is estimated that about a third of respiratory infections and half of all cases of diarrhoea, the first and second biggest infectious killers of children worldwide, would be avoided. It is estimated that 823,000 child deaths would be prevented each year if breastfeeding were adopted at close‑to-universal levels.
The market for infant formula and follow-on milk formulas is growing at eight times the pace of the global population, despite the adoption, almost 40 years ago, of the Code by the World Health Assembly (WHA), the highest public health policy-making body in the world. In the UK, the Code has not been fully adopted into law, and the UK’s baby feeding industry is the 11th largest in the world, predicted to be worth over $900 million by 2019.
The Code is designed to protect all babies from harmful commercial interests – as well as promoting breastfeeding, it seeks to ensure that parents who formula feed receive clear, accurate and evidence based information about which products to use. As such, there is an urgent need for the industry to comply with the Code and to put an end to the promotion of breastmilk substitutes.
This report sets out recommendations of how companies can be part of a race to the top to help millions of children get the healthiest start in life by adhering to the Code in full. It also calls on governments to incorporate the Code and subsequent resolutions fully into their laws and regulations and asks that they invest in independent monitoring, free from commercial interest, and effective enforcement mechanisms.
Time for action
Save The Children, Action contre la Faim, BRAC, FHI 360, Helen Keller International and SUN‑Pakistan are calling for:
- Chief executives of the BMS industry to publicly commit to upholding the Code and agree to meet targets set to achieve full compliance.
- Governments to incorporate the Code and subsequent resolutions fully into their laws and regulations and asks that they invest in independent monitoring, free from commercial interest, and effective enforcement mechanisms.
- Investors to recognise that aggressive marketing harms families’ infants and young children and asks them to use their influence to encourage companies to comply with the Code.
Add your voice
Our Call to Action urges UK governments to take four key steps to improve infant feeding practices, including full implementation of the Code. Add your voice to the campaign now.
Read the full Don’t Push It report.