The WHO/UNICEF International Code
What is the International Code?
The WHO/UNICEF International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted by a Resolution (WHA34.22) of the World Health Assembly in 1981.
The International Code bans all promotion of bottle feeding and sets out requirements for labelling and information on infant feeding. Any activity which undermines breastfeeding also violates the aim and spirit of the Code. The Code and its subsequent World Health Assembly Resolutions are intended as a minimum requirement in all countries.
What is covered?
All breastmilk substitutes. These are products which are marketed in a way which suggests they should replace breastfeeding, even if the product is not suitable for that purpose. They may include:
teas and juices
teats/nipples and related equipment.
Baby food companies may not:
- promote their products in hospitals, shops or to the general public
- give free samples to mothers or free or subsidised supplies to hospitals or maternity wards
- give gifts to health workers or mothers
- promote their products to health workers: any information provided by companies must contain only scientific and factual matters
- promote foods or drinks for babies
- give misleading information
- There should be no contact between baby milk company sales personnel and mothers.
- Labels must be in a language understood by the mother and must include a clear health warning.
- Baby pictures may not be shown on baby milk labels.
- The labels mus not include language which idealises the use of the product.
When the International Code was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 (see Resolution WHA34.22) it was recognised that it may require clarification or even revision. Accordingly Resolutions have been adopted every 2 years since 1982. The subsequent Resolutions have equal status to the International Code and close many of the loopholes exploited by the baby food industry.
The following resolutions are available on the IBFAN web site.