Appearance of Minister
for Children, Margaret Hodge MP, at Wyeth/IPPR conference causes
15 September 2003
have voiced their concerns over Margaret Hodge's decision to speak
on the Government's Green Paper, 'Children at Risk', at a Wyeth/IPPR
Conference in London tomorrow. Mother support groups, National
Childbirth Trust and the Breastfeeding Network, have apparently
advised their members to stay away. We understand that Mark Jones,
of CPHVA (Community Practioners and Health Visitors Assocation)
was listed as a speaker, and is not going to attend.
Wyeth is second only
to Nestlé for the scale of its violations of the International
Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent,
relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly. Wyeth's aggressive
marketing contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of
infants around the world (see the company profile in the Breaking
the Rules monitoring report). According to the World Health
Organisation, 1.5 million infants die around the world every year
because they are not breastfed (see
Wyeth has been censured
by the Advertising Standards Authority in South Africa and
was recently convicted of criminally advertising infant formula
to the general public in the UK, a "deliberate and cynical
breach of the regulations", targetting a "vulnerable
section of our society" according to the judge (seeUpdate
33). In the course of that trial, Wyeth attempted to overturn
the UK law intended to protect infant health.
An IPPR report, "An equal start" sponsored by baby food
companies Wyeth and Nutricia, produced for tomorrow's conference,
notes "despite considerable efforts to encourage breastfeeding
in the UK, rates have remained static for the past 20 years".
The report makes no comment on the aggressive marketing of the
baby food companies nor the need for the Government to strengthen
marketing regulations in the UK to bring them into line with international
standards. Last year the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child,
called on the Government to take action to ban all promotion of
breastmilk substitutes. This is not mentioned in the report (see
Mike Brady, Campaigns
and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:
not fit to be associated with a conference on 'children at risk'
given the systematic way in which it puts children at risk around
the world by aggressively marketing its baby foods. It is disturbing
that Margaret Hodge should be discussing a Government Green
Paper at a Conference linked to a company which so recently
attempted to over turn UK legislation intended to protect infant
health. We regret that IPPR's choice of partner has created
this situation. We did consider mobilising a demonstration at
the Conference to draw attention to Wyeth's appalling record.
We hope that IPPR will meet with us to discuss the marketing
of baby foods, something noticeably lacking from the report
it produced with funding from baby food companies Wyeth and
Nutricia, and will revise its funding guidelines to avoid such
inappropriate sponsors in future."
In 1996, the World
Health Assembly adopted Resolution 49.15 which stated:
that health institutions and ministries may be subject to subtle
pressure to accept, inappropriately, financial or other support
for professional training in infant and child health;... URGES
Member States to take the following measures:...to ensure that
the financial support for professionals working in infant and
young child health does not create conflicts of interest..."
When the UK's
Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations were being
discussed, many health worker organisations opposed the failure
to bring these into line with the World Health Assembly standards.
Tony Blair, for the opposition, said at the time:
House is alarmed at the decision taken recently by Health Ministers
to put commercial interests before infant health when it refused
to ban the advertising of infant formula in the United Kingdom;
is aware that such a decision is contrary to all its statements
in support of an advertisement ban over the last 13 years, and
contradicts also the advice given to it from major health bodies
including the British Medical Association, the British Paediatric
Association, and the Royal College of Midwives; and calls upon
Her Majestys Government to rethink its approach instead
of simply responding to UK baby milk companies promotions.
Mike Brady said:
"We hope the controversy over her appearance at the Wyeth/IPPR
conference will prompt the Minister for Children to look closely
at the issue of marketing of baby foods and infant health. We
look to Margaret Hodge to work to protect infants by bringing
UK legislation into line with international standards."
The Baby Feeding Law
Group brings together health worker and campaigning organisations
to call on the Government to bring the law into line with the
International Code and Resolutions (see http://www.babyfeedinglawgroup.org.uk/).
For further information
contact Mike Brady on 07986 736179 or email@example.com