Today is World Food Day. To mark the occassion the UK Food Group, a coalition of development and public interest organisations working for global food security, has presented its annual Food Awards. Companies, governments, organisations and a journalist have been awarded for their positive or negative contribution to food security.
Hipp receives an Shaming Award for the misguiding labelling on its infant teas and juices, which endanger infant health by encouraging an early end to exclusive breastfeeding. Introduction of any foods other than breastmilk during the first months of life increases risk of illness. Where water is unsafe introduction of other foods increases risk of diarrhoea, malnutrition and death.
Baby Milk Action nominated Hipp for the Award. The full nomination is given below.
Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator, Baby Milk Action, said:
"Hipp's unethical and irresponsible marketing practices endanger infant health. We hope that the adverse publicity surrounding this Award will encourage Mr. Klaus Hipp, General Manager of Hipp, to take action to put infant health before his own profits. Our letters to him have so far failed to prompt the necessary changes."
Baby Milk Action is currently receiving reports from UK health workers that Hipp is distributing unsolicited free samples of its organic infant formula to their workplace. This is a flagrant violation of Article 7.4 of the International Code. Baby Milk Action is advising health workers to contact their Local Trading Standards Office to ask for action to be taken against Hipp.
UK Food Group World Food Awards
Food Labelling: bad example
Hipp labelling of infant teas and juices endangers health
Hipp claims to support the recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding in the first months of life, yet its teas and juices are labelled and promoted for early use, in some cases as young as one week of age. Feeding infants with substances other than breastmilk during the first months of life increases risk of illness. Where water is unsafe introducing even one feed of another substance, including water, teas and juices, significantly increases risk of death (ref: 1).
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for about the first six months of life. Substances other than breastmilk fed to infants during this period are, therefore, replacing breastmilk and consequently come within the Scope of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (ref: 2). Other measures adopted by the World Health Assembly to protect infant health also apply to infant foods. Hipp's aggressive marketing practices, particularly in the Balkans, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, violate these provisions. For example, in a number of countries, Hipp distributes free samples to mothers, sometimes in maternity hospitals (e.g. Croatia, Latvia, Macedonia, Ukraine).
There is also serious concern about the high sugar content of Hipp's products (typically its tea granules are over 90% sugar). This contravenes the recommendations of health advocates. For example, the UK Department of Health Working Group on the Weaning Diet (ref: 3), calls for low sugar levels to reduce risk of dental caries. Following a series of court cases in Hipp's home country of Germany, manufacturers of teas and juices include warnings on labels advising that a child's teeth be cleaned regularly. However, Hipp has marketed its products in a number of countries without translating the labels into an appropriate language.
1. Cesar G. Victora et al. Infant Feeding and Deaths Due to Diarrhea, a case-control study. American Journal of Epidemiology 1989;129: 1032-1041. "Only one other food variable was associated with risk of death after adjustment for all confounding variables. This was the frequency of having tea, water or juice, each additional feed increasing the risk of death by 42%."
2. The Scope of the International Code includes: "bottlefed complementary foods, when marketed or otherwise represented to be suitable, with or without modification, for use as a partial or total replacement of breastmilk."
3. Report on the Working Group on the Weaning Diet of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy. Department of Health, 1994. "The Working Group recommends that weaning foods should usually be free of, or low in, non-milk extrinsic sugars including sugars derived from fruit juices and fruit concentrates."
Hipp has attempted to earn an ethical image by championing organic foods - some of the Hipp range is accredited by the Soil Association. However, this reputation is not totally deserved as Hipp continues to produce non-organic foods under the Bebivita label, which do not reveal the connection with Hipp.
Further information on Hipp's marketing malpractice can be seen on the Baby Milk Action website in the Campaign for Ethical Marketing.
Baby Milk Action is the UK member of the International Baby Food Action Network
(IBFAN). IBFAN partners can
provide first-hand evidence of Hipp's irresponsible marketing
in their countries.