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International conference says no to baby food industry sponsorship

10 September 2004

The organisers of the 12th International Conference of the International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation (ISRHML) currently being held in Queens’ College Cambridge, UK (September 10 – 14, 2004) have this year decided not to accept funding from the baby food industry - as it has in previous years.

Baby Milk Action – the campaigning body based in Cambridge – is delighted with this decision. Together with UNICEF, Baby Milk Action and its partners in the global network IBFAN, have been urging the refusal of such money because it creates conflicts of interest and opportunities for undue influence.

Patti Rundall, Policy Director of Baby Milk Action commented,

“We understand the difficulties faced by conference organisers when trying to run international events, IBFAN runs similar conferences itself, but the issues at stake are very important and really should not be ignored. The baby food industry is continually looking for opportunities to create dependency and will never provide such funding without expecting a return of some kind. We see the impact in many ways, for example, in the research questions that are asked, or when governments make decisions about legislation.”

Participants from over 30 countries are present at the Conference, including several who had not come in previous years because of the sponsorship. The Conference is looking at the latest research on the many benefits of human milk, in particular its impact on long-term health and intelligence.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed. Where water is unsafe a bottle-fed child is up to 25 times more likely to die as a result of diarrhoea than a breastfed child. For this reason a marketing code was introduced in 1981 to regulate the marketing of breastmilk substitutes. No baby food companies abide by this marketing Code and all put children’s lives at risk (see

Awareness of the impact of inappropriate commercial sponsorship is growing. In May the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Charity refused £1 million from Nestle. The 8th Nordic Conference on Nutrition, held in Tonsberg, Norway in June 2004, organised by the Norwegian Nutrition Society decided not to apply to Nestlé for financial support.

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For more information about ISRHML see:
For more information about Baby Milk Action contact: Patti Rundall: 07786 523493: or Mike Brady: 01223 464420

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