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It’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, but companies can still get away with saying ‘nothing could be simpler or safer’ than bottle-feeding

10 May 2004

While the Government and health campaigners attempt to raise awareness of the benefits to infants and mothers of breastfeeding (it is currently National Breastfeeding Awareness Week), a new report reveals that companies in the UK are routinely violating marketing regulations for breastmilk substitutes and encouraging mothers and health workers to favour artificial feeding over breastfeeding. Baby Milk Action is to launch a report on violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly, and the weaker UK law on baby milk marketing, at the House of Commons on Thursday 13th May. Members of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) from around the world will also be presenting evidence gathered through monitoring of baby food companies in 69 countries. The meeting in the Jubilee Room, 10.30 to 11.30, is being hosted by Lynne Jones MP who is tabling an Early Day Motion calling for the UK Government to support action to end baby food marketing malpractice in the UK and in other countries.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Cambridge-based Baby Milk Action, which is coordinating on-going monitoring in the UK, said:

“We are perhaps best known for promoting the boycott of Nestlé, the worst of the baby food companies at a global level, but we also work to improve legislation in the UK. Baby Milk Action and members of the public have reported many cases of illegal promotion of baby milks to Trading Standards officers in recent months. Prompt action is taken, but the UK Law is so narrow companies can get away with suggesting their milks increase a baby’s intelligence or nothing is simpler or safer than bottle-feeding. There are short and long-term health consequences to artificial feeding. It costs the NHS millions per year treating sickness associated with artificial feeding. In developing countries, where there is less access to health care, a child dies every 30 seconds because it was not breastfed. Mothers in the UK have as much right to information on infant feeding free from commercial pressure as mothers in other countries.”

A UK Department of Health survey released for Breastfeeding Awareness Week shows that 34% of women incorrectly believe that modern infant formula milks are very similar or the same as breast milk (see Myths stop women giving babies the best start in life. This is the message baby food companies present in their promotional campaigns. A preview copy of the summary UK monitoring report can be emailed to journalists on request.

Reports from other countries will be available at the meeting on 13 May and shortly afterward on the website along with the full global monitoring report.

For further information contact: Mike Brady, Baby Milk Action, 23 St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX, UK. Tel +44 (0)1223 464420 Fax: +44 (0)1223 464417 Mobile: 07986 736179

Notes for Editors

Wyeth was successfully prosecuted in 2003 for running an SMA advertisement claiming: “It’s great to know your bottle-fed baby is getting the best start in life.” (click for press release).

Companies continue to run advertisements claiming formula will “support natural defences” or will be “nourishing baby’s body and mind”.

Bottle firm Maws has claimed its bottles are “clinically proven to reduce crying time.... nothing could be simpler or safer” (click here to see the Maws advertisement).

NUMICO sends postcards to pregnant women and new mothers encouraging them to call its Milupa and Cow&Gate-branded “carelines” for information on infant care.

The monitoring report reveals other strategies, including how baby food companies are training health workers on infant nutrition and even running ante-natal and post-natal classes for mothers.

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