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Issue 26: December 1999

The news items which appear on this page are abridged versions of stories which appear in full in the printed version of Update, which is available to members of Baby Milk Action. Membership costs just £18 waged, £7 unwaged, £25 family, £50 organisations - for members outside the UK there is an extra postage charge. You can join on-line in the Virtual Shop.

Table of Contents

Boycott news

Supplement with the latest on the Nestlé boycott

Cover story - Nestlé's direct marketing to mothers

Nestlé's new book (background picture): In October 1999 Nestlé started mailing out a book called Nestlé implementation of the WHO Code, having conducted global "monitoring". Nestlé claims it does nothing wrong.

Nestlé Philippines: Nestlé's book claims the Philippines as a country where it complies with the Code, yet the letter published acknowledges that violations have been reported. These include Nestlé's "Health Educators" (pictured) who have been found promoting Nestogen infant formula to mothers in the community. While Nestlé denies that its staff have direct contact with mothers, the Nestlé Philippines website refers to its "education on nutrition for village mothers".

In addition, Dickie Sorian, OgilvyOne Manila, told BusinessWorld: "When we designed Nestlé's infant nutrition program, we made full use of direct marketing insights and breakthroughs that are now reshaping the way we market brands as well as the relationships between consumers and brand." OgilvyOne received three industry awards for this work in September 1999.

Nestlé's direct marketing in Hungary (envelope pictured): Direct marketing to mothers is specifically banned by Article 5.5 of the International Code. Yet this pack was sent to the breastfeeding mother of a five-month old child in Hungary, after Nestlé took her details from the birth registry. Free samples of follow-on formula in the pack have come from Denmark and break the requirements of the European Union Export Directive for these products. Nestlé's new book does not mention Hungary despite its operations there (more below).

Nestlé's 'Parents Club' in Denmark: Nestlé received an award in 1997 from Direct Response magazine for its success in countering the Danish breastfeeding promotion campaign through its Parents Club promotion (leaflet pictured - also see Boycott News 21). Nestlé has been informed by the Danish authorities that a mailing broke the law - its appeal against this decision is pending. The letter from Denmark in Nestlé's new book is not the endorsement Nestlé claims it to be (see below).

You can help to stop these violations. See the Campaign for Ethical Marketing.

IBFAN Europe - joining East and West

Participants from 33 countries (30 in Europe) took part in the IBFAN Europe Regional Planning Meeting in Gšteborg, Sweden from 16-19th October. Over half the groups are from countries outside the European Union, the result of concerted networking and NGO Capacity Building efforts by the IBFAN Europe Coordinating Office, with the support of Baby Milk Action.

IBFAN is 20 years old

Participants celebrated 20 years of IBFAN - the global network now consists of over 150 groups. The regional meeting sets policy and appoints coordinators for the IBFAN Europe region. Coordinators will attend the IBFAN Coordinating Council to formulate global policy.

Participants applaud new Georgian Law

Professor Ketevan Nemsadeze of the Georgian IBFAN group, CLARITAS, informed participants that on 9th September the Georgian Government fully implemented the International Code and Resolutions in the face of opposition from the baby food industry. "We thank the people and organisations around the world who sent letters of support," she said. "This helped us in our work." International support, from the public as well as Members of the European Parliament and UN organisations, can be vital. Baby Milk Action sent out a call for support in August using its Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet.

Tragic death of Swedish partner

A candle was burning during the meeting for Bjšrn Sšderberg, a Director of the Swedish IBFAN group, NAFIA. Bjšrn was murdered on his doorstep by right-wing extremists shortly before the meeting. We send our condolences to Bjšrn's relatives and colleagues.

Also see Boycott News 26 - Bulgaria launches boycott.

Nestlé's "monitoring" report

Danes 'surprised' by Nestlé's new book

Baby Milk Action asked Bente Koch of the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration if she was aware that Nestlé would use a letter from her in its new book: Nestlé implementation of the WHO Code: Official Response of Governments. The letter has also been published on the Internet. She said:

"We are very surprised. We had the impression that Nestlé would use the letter in connection with export of infant formulas to countries outside the EU in order to inform about the fact that Denmark had implemented the Commission's Directives."

Asked if the letter was "official verification of Nestlé's compliance" as Nestlé claims, she explained:

"It is the responsibility of the marketer or distributor to ensure their marketing is in accordance with Danish Regulations. We never certify that a producer is marketing in accordance with the Danish Regulations. We have only given a description of the system."

Nestlé fined for breaking Czech Law

Nestlé's new book does not include any information about the Czech Republic, even though Nestlé has operations there. Could this be because Nestlé's new policy of "openness" does not extend to admitting it has broken the law? In July 1998 Prague Trade Department took up a case against Nestlé for producing a poster promoting Nestlé complementary foods for use from 4 months of age and for a promotional campaign using a calendar distributed to maternity hospitals. Nestlé reportedly received the maximum possible fine in July 1999. We hope that Nestlé will acknowledge the seriousness of the judgement against it and ensure its activities are corrected.

NCT unimpressed

The National Childbirth Trust has released its response to Nestlé's new book. It states:

"The NCT is pleased you feel you are making progress in starting to comply with the WHO code on the marketing of Breast Milk substitutes in other countries. However on a close examination of your enclosed report the evidence that you are complying is unconvincing... It is clear that formula promotion is still depressing breastfeeding rates."

The NCT calls for unbranded tins, strict control on promotion in line with the Code and for mothers to be advised by health care professional rather than companies.

Nestlé "monitoring" strategy evaluated

Nestlé has been mass mailing the 180-page book Nestlé implementation of the WHO Code to journalists, organisations, MPs and individuals. This follows the Advertising Standards Authority ruling against Nestlé and a wave of critical media coverage and public protests in the UK (see Boycott News 26). In the book Nestlé publishes letters from government officials from a number of countries. Baby Milk Action only received a copy of the book after writing to Nestlé's Chairman. A detailed analysis has been prepared. While we welcome Nestlé's admission that it needs to do more to monitor its activities, we note:

  • Nestlé concludes that it is doing nothing wrong despite the many violations reported to it by governments, IBFAN and others. In 1998 WHO called on companies to "respond promptly to correct all the violations that are reported."
  • In May 1999 Nestlé's Assistant Vice President, Niels Christiansen, claimed that over 70 governments had verified Nestlé's compliance and there were question marks in only three cases. Yet in October '99 Chief Executive, Peter Brabeck, said: "We now have 54 countries verifying our compliance, with only one government writing to say that we don't follow the Code."
  • Nestlé states that the countries represented in the book account for "over half our infant formula sales in developing countries". What about the other countries where Nestlé has operations? Why are critical responses from countries such as Samoa and South Africa not included?
  • In some cases it is bizarre that Nestlé suggests that the statement "verifies Nestlé compliance." For example, the letter from the Ministry of Health in the Cook Islands states: "I have not noticed any of their products being sold here."
  • Only six of the statements refer to monitoring or something similar conducted by the authority providing the statement - and three of these note violations were found or reported.
  • A further five statements suggest concern about violations.
  • A quarter of the statements relate only to materials or information Nestlé presented to the government authority.
  • Many statements appear to be a standard form of words, presumably suggested by Nestlé.
  • Many statements include expressions such as "to the best of my knowledge..."
  • Nestlé claims that it conducts international audits. Why hasn't it published the reports resulting from these? Will Nestlé accept independent auditing of its activities?

Campaign to strengthen EU legislation

The new European Commission, appointed in September, has promised more power to MEPs, better consumer protection, and that its activities will be transparent. Below we examine what this might mean for infant health.

The lobby for strong controls on baby food marketing in Europe has been in process for decades and has involved thousands of NGOs, parliamentarians, policy makers and health workers worldwide. The European Commission has, more often than not, argued in favour of the baby food companies based in Europe - who naturally seek to expand the market for European products. However, because of the strength of our campaign, in 1986 and in 1991, the Commission agreed to make some of important changes in favour of health. But they did not do everything that was needed. The result is European legislation which is limited in scope and full of loopholes. The challenge now is to bring the legislation into line with the World Health Assembly Resolutions - which all EU member states consistently endorse.

What does transparency really mean?

For consumers to have confidence in government decisions it is vital that policy makers have access to truly independent advice and that any commercial influences are out in the open. The safety of British beef has dominated the UK news recently and much weight has been placed on the Scientific Committees who advise the European Commission. One of the Committees - the Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) - had an important influence on baby food safety and marketing controls yet the links between some of its members and the food industry are still not public.

In 1997 the 8 scientific committees were moved from DG3 (Industry) to DG24 (Consumer and Development) in an attempt to minimise commercial influence on legislation. Decisions and minutes are now published speedily on the internet. However the thorny problem of conflicts of interest is still fudged and delayed. Annual declarations are missing and the declarations that are published leave a lot to be desired, giving the public no clear information. For example, the report on the meeting on Animal Foodstuffs on 25 Jan '99 only states: "Following a verbal declaration of interest concerning a special relationship with a feed additive manufacturer, the Chairman requested the member concerned to send a written declaration."

  • At the IBFAN European Regional meeting in Sweden, a letter to the new European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, David Byrne, was endorsed by 54 health professional and consumer advocates from 28 countries in Europe, CEE/CIS and the Baltic States. The letter asks the Commission to amend the newly adopted Directive on Dietary Foods in line with the International Code and Resolutions.
  • Cartoons useful for explaining the Code and the EU Directives are available on the internet at

Questions asked of the European Commission

Gleny Kinnock MEP submitted the following written questions on 27th October 1999:

  • "What is the process by which annual declarations of interest of past and current members of the Scientific Committee for Food are sought, submitted and published?
  • What measures will the Commission take to ensure that the Dietary Foods Directive meets the requirements of the International Code on the marketing of breast milk substitutes and subsequent Resolutions?
  • What consultation took place with experts on infant foods and their marketing when formulating the Dietary Foods Directive?"

Health claims - marketing using bogus science

Unlike the International Code, current EU legislation applies only to foods for infants in 'good health.' The new EU Directive on Dietary Foods for Special Medical Purposes (1999/21/EC) will apply to infants with 'limited, impaired or disturbed capacity to take, digest...ordinary foodstuffs.' The Directive hands to the baby food companies just what they have been waiting for - permission to make a host of new claims, which, although violating the International Code, may not actually break European law.

In many countries we are now seeing a marked increase in the promotion of specialised formulas which claim to tackle 'problems' such as colic, crying, vomiting and allergies. Free samples, prescription tear off slips, internet advertising and extraordinary claims are being used, many of them unfounded or based only on industry-funded studies. Some claims promote new 'biological' and other ingredients, suggesting that the new formulas match human milk. Others compare one artificial milk to another - and simply ignore breastfeeding. Perhaps companies want us to believe that breastfeeding is simply not an option for sick babies.

Infatrini - a test case

Will Numico's medical claims for Infatrini (a milk for babies who fail to thrive) be declared illegal? (See Update 25). Baby Milk Action sent a complaint to the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) in July, who sent it on to the Trading Standards Authority (LACOTS) and to the Medicines Control Agency (MCA). Four months later, the MCA say that because Infatrini is a food rather than a medicine it does not fall within their remit. The case will be taken back to LACOTS.

Forked tongues

A few days before BBC Watchdog featured Infatrini in August, Nutricia (a subsidiary of Numico) mailed dieticians saying that it did not intend to repeat the advert and that it had no objection to "Infatrini becoming a prescription only product, but for this to happen, current legislation would have to change." Strange - only last year the industry was lobbying against this.

And now ESBOs

EU limits for pesticides in baby foods were also adopted in March, but will not come fully into effect until July 2002 (1999/50/EC). There are no set limits on other contaminants in baby foods, so parents will remain in the dark about levels of lead, cadmium, etc. Now it seems that an oil in the seal of the lids of baby food jars could cause a problem. Government tests found toxic contamination from epoxidised soya bean oil (ESBO) in 48% of samples. Although there is no immediate health risk, infants should not eat products with the same high level of ESBO all the time. Companies have been asked to reduce ESBO levels.

Hipp's formula claims

Hipp is aggressively promoting its infant formulas and follow-on milks (now at 6 months) with 450g samples sent free to health visitors. The packets (see above) carry the following claims, which are not permitted by UK law: "free from synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilisers...gluten free...cows are allowed to graze naturally in meadows which are organically maintained...leading to pure, natural milk."

GM formula - can it match breastfeeding?

Companies are applying for patents to engineer cows to produce the whey protein in human milk and other ingredients. To try and convince the public that such technology results in milks which match the 'gold standard' of breastmilk, they will certainly want to make health claims. A mother's milk, in contrast to any genetically engineered product, is a living substance, tailor made for her baby. Its anti-infective, anti-viral and growth factors even now, are not fully understood, and it can actively destroy many bacteria, viruses and parasites - practically anything the new-born infant may confront. It is also delivered in a uniquely safe way. Breastmilk is not on sale or packaged and is rarely promoted in glossy brochures, so claims which imply benefit from any artificial substitute create an imbalance and mislead.

What is a health claim?

Health claims, nutrient function claims or medical claims attribute properties to a product or to a specific nutrient that it can prevent, treat or cure disease. Their alleged validity should always be challenged. Nutrient statements (along with good clear ingredients) are quantitative and qualitative declarations. Their accuracy can be proven by analysis of the product. Nutrient statements can also be promotional if they are presented in a way which implies benefit.

Current EU law (for infant formula for babies in good health) allows: 6 nutrient content claims: Adapted protein; Low sodium; Sucrose free, Lactose only, Lactose free; iron enriched and 1 nutrient function claim: a claim related to "reduction of risk to allergy to milk proteins [which] may include terms referring to reduced allergen or reduced antigen properties."


Nestlé's toddler foods apal allergy and health experts

Nestlé's new Junior snacks (for babies from 12 months), promoted as 'good and nutritious,' are causing a furore among health workers and allergy specialists in the UK (see also Boycott News). The fruit sticks in the range are over 50% sugar (more sugar even than Kit-Kat). The sesame sticks carry no warning that sesame is known to be the second most serious allergen after peanuts. Dr Martin Stern, speaking on BBC's You & Yours on 22 October, described Nestlé's failure to acknowledge the risks of its marketing as "an abuse of scientific knowledge. I think that this is a marketing campaign that is laying a trap for unwary mothers and it should not be done."

Nestle is promoting the foods widely including through samples at Tumble Tots - young children's play clubs. Nestlé attempts to allay parents' fears about feeding sugary foods by saying: "You may worry that snacks will spoil your toddler's appetite or make them fat, but this is not generally the case..."

Exports from the European Union

The Dutch IBFAN group, WEMOS, reports that measures adopted by the European Union to regulate the behaviour of baby food exporters have been broken by a number of companies, yet no action has been taken by the European Commission.

Richard Howitt MEP, who is calling for Nestlé to be investigated through public hearings in the European Parliament, submitted questions to the Commission on this matter in November. The response is still awaited.

In October, Baby Milk Action complained to the Danish Food Administration about Nestlé's Beba 2 follow-on formula which breaks an EU Export Directive requirement that "these products shall be labelled... in such a way as to avoid any risk of confusion between infant formulae and follow-on formulae." Nestlé mailed a free sample of Beba 2 (shown right) to the breastfeeding mother of a 5-month old child in Hungary, having taken her details from the birth registry.

Hipp company shamed by "award"

To mark World Food Day (15th October), the UK Food Group, (a coalition of UK organisations, including Baby Milk Action, Christian Aid and Oxfam) presented awards for positive and negative impact on food security. Hipp "won" a "Shaming Award" for its "misguiding labels on infant teas and juices." These undermine exclusive breastfeeding by promoting use of teas from as young as one week of age.

Participants from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union at the IBFAN Europe Regional Meeting were particularly concerned about the activities of Hipp as it is promoting its products aggressively in hospitals. In some health facilities in the Ukraine and Croatia, for example, mothers have received a Hipp gift pack within hours of giving birth.

Nestlé's water

Update 25 reported on Nestlé's launch of Pure Life bottled water in Pakistan, quoting from an article in the Wall Street Journal (18th June '99) by Ernest Beck. Marketing Business (October '99) reports that Pure Life has also been launched in Brazil and that Nestlé "plans to take the product to other countries by the end of this year. Bottled in China, it will be sold throughout Asia, South America and Eastern Europe." l Following a Baby Milk Action campaign Nestlé gave a written undertaking not to use its advertising for bottled water to promote artificial infant feeding. Unfortunately, we found that Nestlé soon broke that promise and further action had to be taken (see Boycott News 24). We will continue to monitor its activities closely.

Exclusive breastfeeding rates on the rise

UNICEF has stated that reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save the lives of 1.5 million infants every year. Baby Milk Action's work for appropriate marketing of baby foods contributes to this goal. The UNICEF publication Progress of Nations 1999 reports encouraging trends in some countries:

"More infants are gaining the irreplaceable benefits of exclusive breastfeeding during their first four months, according to data from 35 developing countries. Rates have increased in 21 countries. Iran achieved the highest average annual increase in breastfeeding, 6 percentage points, followed by Brazil and Zambia. Breastfeeding rates have declined in Colombia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco and Tunisia. Breastfeeding gains stem from initiatives to publicize the benefits to mother and child and to prohibit the advertising and promotion of breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles and teats."

The report is available from UNICEF (UK), Unit 1, Rignalls Lane, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 8TU, UK. Tel: +44 (0)1245 476315. Contact UNICEF for price information.

International news

WHO's new guidelines

The industry agenda to co-opt the UN and work in partnership with agencies such as WHO continues to cause alarm amongst NGOs working to protect public health. With the stakes so high, WHO's new draft Guidelines on Interaction with Commercial Enterprises, could have an important role to play. The guidelines are, however, very disappointing and seem to be more an attempt to seek public approval for partnerships with corporations, than to ensure that WHO stays true to its mandate to improve health. Some good suggestions are made, but the language used is contradictory and confusing, stressing the need for such things as "mutual respect, trust, transparency and shared benefit." These concepts hold very different meaning for transnational corporations who have entirely different aims and values. Commercial enterprises are called on to abide by WHO policies on medicinal drugs, tobacco and chemical and food safety, but no mention is made of WHO's infant feeding policies.

A smoking gun?

In the spirit of "full and complete transparency" WHO's Director General, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland has ordered an investigation into "the nature and extent of the undue influence which the tobacco industry has exercised over UN organisations" in its efforts to undermine UN-wide tobacco control efforts. The review will include 35 million documents which are now in the public domain following court cases in the USA. How long before WHO will investigate the food industry? (Ref: WHO Press Release. 12 Oct 1999).

UNAIDS still refuses formula donations

Baby Milk Action and our IBFAN partners continue to liaise with UNAIDS staff regarding our concerns about corporate donations. We have been assured that UNAIDS has still not accepted donations from formula manufacturers (see Update 25).

HIV transmission and exclusive breastfeeding

In August Baby Milk Action's Health Campaigns Coordinator, Tessa Martyn, attended an IBFAN Africa conference in South Africa, which developed guidelines on HIV and infant feeding. During the conference Dr Anna Coutsoudis presented the results of her study. Until now research has shown that breastfeeding increases the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 14%. However, it was unclear whether there was a difference between exclusive breastfeeding and 'mixed' breastfeeding (ie the occasional use of other foods or fluids). This study (n=547) found that exclusive breastfeeding for 3 months reduced the risk of early HIV transmission by 48% compared to mixed breastfeeding, and the risk was similar to that when artificially feeding. In other words, the additional risk of HIV transmission from exclusive breastfeeding appeared to be zero. More research urgently needs to be conducted to discover if these findings are replicated. It is thought that exclusive breastfeeding is protective against HIV because the gut is not damaged by allergens or contaminants. This study, along with other research about mastitis and HIV transmission, points to the possible conclusion that the most appropriate option for ALL mothers, regardless of their HIV status, may be well managed, exclusive breastfeeding.

(Ref: Coutsoudis A et al (1999) Influence of infant feeding patterns on early mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1 in Durban, South Africa: a prospective cohort study. The Lancet 354:471-476)

WHO Plan of Action for Europe

A set of draft proposals from the European Regional Office of WHO (First Food and Nutrition Action Plan for Europe 2000 - 2005) argues that a safe, healthy diet can promote a sustainable environment. WHO suggests the setting up of Food and Nutrition Mechanisms which would help to ensure that national food policies take account of health. Among other things it calls for policies to increase access to fruits and vegetables (especially for low income households), legislation to control advertising of high-fat, energy dense foods to children and improved maternal and child nutrition, including breastfeeding.

For more details contact Aileen Robertson, WHO Europe, 8 Scherfigsvej, DK - 2100 Copenhagen 0, Denmark. E-mail:

Breastfeeding: Practice & Policy Course

This course is organised by the Institute of Child Health, London, in collaboration with the WHO Division of Child Health and Development and the UNICEF Nutrition Section. It aims to increase health professionals' scientific knowledge of lactation, and their practical skills for the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding. The next course will be held from 3rd - 28th July 2000. It is useful for clinicians, trainers or programme organisers. It is particularly suited to overseas applicants and group applications are welcomed. Funding may be available - you will benefit if your attendance is supported by your national UNICEF office.

For further details contact ICH. Tel: +44 171 242 9789 ex 2122, email:

UK News

Forced testing for baby of HIV positive mother

On 3rd September the High Court ruled that a breastfeeding mother, who has tested positive for HIV, must have her baby tested. This case has invoked fury from many sides, and has raised many issues, including: the rights of the courts versus those of the parents, the rights of the mother versus those of the child and enforced testing as opposed to informed consent.

Baby Milk Action has no vested interest in promoting breastfeeding at the expense of infant health, but we are concerned that so much weight is put on policies which have been hastily drawn up on the basis of inadequate research. We call on policy makers to use caution and sensitivity when implementing policies. As Phyll Buchanan from the Breastfeeding Network stated in response to recent research from South Africa on HIV and infant feeding 'telling HIV positive women to avoid breastfeeding, is a message that may have to be reversed if the findings in the Lancet are confirmed...this will inevitably prove confusing.' (BfN press release 6/9/99).

New Minister for Public Health

Yvette Cooper has taken over as Minister for Public health from Tessa Jowell. With a new Minister in place it is a time for optimism and hope that the Labour Government will bring the UK law into line with the International Code and Resolutions. In 1995, when Labour were in opposition, they put forward a motion noting their 'alarm' at the Conservative Government's law because it 'put commercial interests before infant health' (Opposition motion 525, March 1995).

Baby Friendly sets a good example

This year, thanks to the generous donations of Baby Milk Action members, we have had stalls at the conferences of the Health Visitors' Association, Royal College of Midwives' and Baby Friendly Initiative. The BFI conference stands out for the way in which it remained largely free of commercial 'paraphernalia' which often creates a conflict of interest where the aim is to protect infant health.

Scare stories again

A report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) was published at the launch of World Breastfeeding Week and created scare stories around the world. WWF wanted to highlight the risk of environmental contaminants, which accumulate in body fats and are most readily measured in breastmilk, which has a high fat content. Despite the fact that the report noted falling levels and the greater transmission of toxins in-utero, breastfeeding scare stories resulted in many countries. Baby Milk Action received anxious calls from health workers working to protect breastfeeding and infant health, in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and India. Perhaps WWF can learn from UNICEF who conducted a similar review of existing research in 1997. The UNICEF paper, Breastfeeding and Environmental Contamination, did not look at breastfeeding in isolation and cited a study which estimates that 'about three days of life expectancy would be lost because of cancer attributable to contaminant exposure through breastmilk. In contrast the decrease life expectancy from not breastfeeding was about 70 days'.

UNICEF's paper is available from Baby Milk Action, or UNICEF Nutrition Section, 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA.

You CAN do it here!

The National Childbirth Trust has produced a directory of 'breastfeeding friendly' places. This 29 page booklet looks at the policies of various shopping centres, County Councils, airports, airlines and restaurants. With continued media reports of women being shamed for breastfeeding in public, this is an essential booklet for all breastfeeding friendly people!

For further information contact: NCT Maternity Sales Ltd. Tel: +44(0)141 636 0600 (£2.50 in the UK)

Breastfeeding on the billboards

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 32 complaints about an advert for Irn-Bru (a soft drink) showing a baby happily breastfeeding with the slogan "Mmmmm, Mum's been at the Irn-Bru again." However, the ASA ruled that the advert was 'humorous' and unlikely to cause serious offence. Magda Sachs of the Breastfeeding Network commented: "The fact that people complained about this advert is ludicrous. Raising the issue of breastfeeding in this light-hearted way shows that it is an everyday activity."

Research and reviews

Breastfed children less likely to be obese

A survey in Bavaria, Germany (n=9357), of children aged 5 and 6 years found that the prevalence of obesity in children who had never been breastfed was 4.5%, as compared with 2.8% in breastfed children. Risk of obesity was reduced with increased duration of breastfeeding. The authors concluded that in industrialised countries promoting prolonged breastfeeding may help decrease the prevalence of obesity in childhood. This may result in a lower incidence of developing obesity-related disorders in later life.

Ref: Von Kries et al (1999) Breastfeeding and obesity: cross sectional study, British Medical Journal, 319:147-150

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of asthma

A prospective cohort study in Western Australia (n=2187) found: "a significant reduction in the risk of childhood asthma at age 6 years occurs if exclusive breastfeeding is continued for at least 4 months after birth." It seems that the authors definition of 'exclusive breastfeeding' meant no other milk, rather than the WHO definition of no other fluids or food. However, these results are important in re-affirming the benefits of breastfeeding, and the authors suggest that public health interventions to optimise breastfeeding would help lessen the community burden of asthma.

Ref: Oddy et al (1999) Association between breast feeding and asthma in 6 year old children: findings of a prospective birth cohort study, British Medical Journal, 319:815-9

Breastmilk kills cancer cells

The relationship between not breastfeeding and breast cancer is already well documented. Recent articles (Financial Times, 4/9/99; Discover Magazine, 30/6/99) have reported studies at Lund University in Sweden which have shown that a protein in breastmilk called alpha-lactalbumin actually kills cancer cells. These findings have two major implications: first, it presents a possible research direction for treatment of cancer, and second, it adds to the growing list of the unique properties of breastmilk.

UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Diary covers

The UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative has produced dark blue A5 diary covers (including a weight and height conversion chart) bearing the UNICEF and Baby Friendly Initiative logos. They are sold at cost price to help community health care professionals replace the diary covers given away by formula companies to promote their milks.

Diary covers are available from the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative, PO Box 29050, London WC2H 9TA, UK. Prices in the UK are £1.34 each (for orders of 1, 2 or 3), £1.15 (for orders of 4-39) or £1.10 (for orders of 40 or more) - cheques should be payable to 'UNICEF'.


Work experience with IBFAN

Baby Milk Action has been fortunate to have had Tifenn Barré working as a full-time Campaigns Assistant for 6 months on a French employment training scheme. Tifenn summed up her time as follows:

"After six months work placement at Baby Milk Action, I think it was a very useful experience. I've learned everything I didn't know about breastfeeding and about the behaviour of big companies, like Nestlé. This placement has been useful for me to find a voluntary mission with a French organisation and now I'm ready to work for 2 years in West Africa. I thank the Baby Milk Action team for giving me the opportunity to work in an NGO and I hope they will find some other volunteers to help them in their work."

Jenny Beard, who has been studying Portuguese in Cambridge, commenced a one-year placement with IBFAN Brazil at the end of October. Her posting is funded by Voluntary Service Overseas as part of its Overseas Training Programme. She will spend time with IBFAN groups in different parts of the country.

If you are interested in gaining work experience with IBFAN, contact Baby Milk Action. You must have your own source of funding.

Members make the difference

Baby Milk Action failed to cover its costs in the budget year October 1998 to September 1999, depleting our reserves. This exceptional occurrence arose from the loss of long-term funders who have re-prioritised their programmes to focus their expenditure in developing countries. As competition for grants from other funders is increasingly intense, our members make all the difference. But, sometimes ex-members tell us they have lapsed because they felt they were not active enough. If you feel you do not have the time to campaign, please continue supporting us financially. Competition amongst baby food companies in the UK is hotting up as Nestlé and Hipp are expanding their range of products and promoting them aggressively. In recent months we have seen Nestlé launch a £2 million promotional campaign for its Junior Range of foods, £1 million worth of Nescafé related support to charities, funding for schools linked to its cereals and a major new PR offensive on the baby milk issue. So thank you to all our members. As our work-load increases we need you more than ever before.

Baby Milk Action training days

In past newsletters we asked if people were interested in attending a training day or helping to arrange one. The prototype training day took place in Cambridge in July. A second event took place in St. Albans at the beginning of November. Many thanks to Area Contact, Katy Waters, for carrying out the local organisation. For those of you who have been waiting patiently to hear of an event in your area, please bear with us. The next event is being planned to take place in Preston in March. More details in the next Update.

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