- how do companies respond?
Zimbabwe Case Study
When Zimbabwe implemented
the International Code and Resolutions in legislation, Nestlé
threatened to close down its operations there. The law was introduced
and Nestlé remains in the country. The law is overseen by an Infant
Nutrition Committee (INC). In October the Secretariat of the INC
asked Baby Milk Action to help in stopping violations by Abbott
Ross, Infacare, Wyeth and, surprisingly, UNICEF.
Manufacturers and distributors
of breastmilk substitutes are supposed to ensure that their activities
at every level conform to the marketing requirements. Baby Milk
Action is in regular correspondence with companies that fall short
of the requirements. Here we present some recent examples and
responses we have received.
UNICEF - immediate
The Zimbabwe legislation
allows for products breaking its provisions to be seized. This
happened to formula supplied for a UN pilot project to reduce
mother to child transmission of HIV in October 1999. The formula,
provided by UNICEF Supplies Division, was labelled in English
and French. The law requires labels to be in English, Shona and
Ndebele. Baby Milk Action immediately contacted UNICEF New York,
which responded the same day to acknowledge that the labels should
include all three languages and would be changed. On the next
working day, the UNICEF representative in Zimbabwe met with the
Minsitry of Health and a plan was agreed to approve labels and
to re-package the formula already delivered to the country. The
Supply Division has since issued new instructions making it clear
that labels must be in the appropriate languages.
Wyeth, Abbott and
Infacare - poor
At the same time as
contacting UNICEF, Baby Milk Action faxed the three companies,
asking them to investigate their violations. Companies do not
generally respond to reports of violations and so Baby Milk Action
seeks help from the public and partner organisations by publicising
cases on the Campaign for Ethical
Marketing action sheet. In this case we gave the companies
two weeks to respond to the letters to see if they would act as
quickly as UNICEF.
- Abbott Ross:
Three months later and no response has been received.
Baby Milk Action received no response from Infacare. However,
a Campaign for Ethical Marketing letter writer received a response
in which Infacare denies providing formula for sale in Zimbabwe
and has says it will no longer be manufacturing the product.
- Wyeth: Wyeth
responded to Baby Milk Action after the action sheet was published.
It also denies selling formula in Zimbabwe, but has given an
undertaking to follow the labelling requirements.
Companies often blame
distributors for placing products on the market with inappropriate
labels, yet they have a responsibility to ensure that only correctly
labelled products are sold for export. The Zimbabwe authorities
tell us they are taking action against the distributors.
A Nestlé representative
is Vice Chair of the INC. While noting that this did not stop
the INC asking Baby Milk Action to help, we believe that the law
should be monitored independently of the baby food industry.
involvement in the INC did not stop the Minister of Health criticising
the company (see Boycott
News 27), but it may have influenced the INC statement used
in Nestlé's book.
fined in Costa Rica
Nestlé was fined in
Costa Rica at the end of 1999 for breaking laws relating to the
labelling of breastmilk substitutes. After the law was adopted
in1994, companies were given one year to bring their labels into
line. Nestlé was repeatedly warned that its labels did not comply.
In August 1996, Nestlé presented labels which satisfied the Ministry
of Health and Economy, but these were not placed on the market.
Instead it continued to use labels which had been rejected. In
September 1999, legal action was taken and Nestlé was fined.
feeding in Emergencies
the continent with the highest number of conflicts and
also faces persistent natural disasters, such as floods,
drought and famine. It is home to more than 60% of the
world's refugees - an estimated 50 million people. A figure
expected to increase by 12% annually. Two million of these
are infants for whom breastfeeding is a lifeline.
Baby Milk Action
joined IBFANers and policy makers from 18 countries at
a Meeting on Emergencies in Tanzania in November. The
meeting reviewed the current situation regarding emergencies
in Africa and looked at ways to harmonise policies and
strategies to protect ensure optimim survival and development
called for the principles and aims of the International
Code and subsequent relevant Resolutions to be applied
in all emergency situations.
news and more ...
Mutant milk for baby
On his second Channel
4 TV programme on 13th Jan, Mark Thomas interviewed David Ayares
from PPL Therapeutics in Virginia, USA. PPL is conducting research,
sponsored by Wyeth (the makers of SMA), which he said aims to
develop "a completely humanised milk product where you would
milk a cow and almost human milk would come out...We now have
a mini-herd of transgenic cattle that are making human alphalact-albumin...in
their milk." Ayares said the product would be ready to be
launched in 30 months, that negotiations were already underway
with major US and European companies and as it was a "nutritional
product" "you don't need to go through the same type of clinical
trial process that you would for a pharmaceutical..."
On the same programme,
a statement from PPL's UK HQ was read out reassuring listeners
that the products would undergo clinical trials. This story shows
the urgent need for a ban on all claims and promotion of breastmilk
substitutes. Without such controls, we are all likely to be misled.
Breastfeeding involves an irreplacable living substance and process,
which is tailor made for every baby. It is not replicated by matching
just one or two ingredients which are then bottle-fed.
In her book 'GE Genetic
Engineering and You. Moyra Bremner points out the folly of this
approach:"Solving these problems [increasing the number of
babies who receive breastmilk] by engineering a bull to create
cows with human milk is like losing your front-door key and hiring
a Sherman tank to get you in, instead of going to a locksmith.
It may be rather fun to use a tank - but is it wise?"
Genetic Engineering and you' (1999 Moyra Bremner, Harper Collins,
ISBN 0-00-653190-3) addresses the issue of GM in a wide context,
exploring not only the immediate concerns regarding food safety,
but also the global impact and the effect on humanity as a whole.
The Baby Feeding
Law Group (UK)...
...is the new name
of the UK Law Working Group. The group comprises agencies working
to protect breastfeeding and infant health by bringing UK legislation
into line with the International Code and subsequent, relevant
WHA Resolutions. Members include professional organisations, such
as the Royal College of Nursing and the Health Visitors' Association
and lay organisations such as La Leche League and the Food Commission.
The group has tackled issues such as INFORM (see Update
23 & Update 25), sponsorship,
medical foods and UK legislation. Organisations wishing to join
should contact Baby Milk Action.
SMA advertise for
staff to violate the Code
In adverts in the
local press SMA, who say they are "UK's number 1 baby milk company",
have advertised for reps to present topics to mothers. This is
in direct contravention of article
5.5 of the International Code which prohibits marketing personnel
from seeking contact with mothers or pregnant women.
Write to SMA to complain
about this at:
Lane South, Taplow, Maidenhead, SL6 0PH
UK Food Standards
Agency - a good start?
The UK's new food
Standards Agency came into being on 1 April, with Prof Sir John
Krebs as the Chair, and the Deputy Chair, the campaigner on food
and poverty issues, Suzi Leather. The Agency aims to: "protect
public health from risks which may arise in connection with the
consumption of food, and... protect the interests of consumers
in relation to food."
It has three core values,
- put the consumer
- be open and accessible
- be an independent
Many of the UK scientific
committees, are being re-organised and will fall under the remit
of the FSA. It is too early to say what the Agency will do for
infant health, but as a start, the issue of additional controls
on medical foods for infants has already been raised with the
EU Commission in Brussels. FSA information can be found on http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk
Nestlé in deep water
Meanwhile Nestlé has
decided to withdraw its Junior foods (see Boycott
News 27) but is still promoting its "growing range" of specialised
infant formulae - in time for the new Medical Foods Law which
came into effect in May. It will soon face Trading Standards in
court regarding its use of allegedly illegal medical claims on
Shredded Wheat breakfast cereal.
Negative impact of
A US study has found
that the use of materials produced by baby milk companies has
a detrimental effect on breastfeeding. Women (n=547) were randomly
assigned into 2 groups, one receiving a pack of information containing
baby milk company materials, and the other group receiving a pack
which had no information from baby milk companies. Both packs
contained information about breastfeeding and artificial feeding,
but stressed breastfeeding as the optimal feeding method. The
authors concluded that "although breast-feeding initiation
and long-term duration were not affected, exposure to formula
promotion materials increased significantly breast-feeding cessation
in the first two weeks... [additionally] among women with uncertain
goals or breast-feeding goals of 12 weeks or less, exclusive,
full, and overall breast-feeding duration were shortened... formula
promotion products should be eliminated from prenatal settings."
Ref: Howard et al
(2000) Office Prenatal Advertising and Its Effect on Breast-Feeding
Patterns, Obstetrics and Gynaecology; 95(2):296-303
1999 the UK Baby Friendly Initiative launched a new training
video which covers the 10 steps to Successful Breastfeeding
and the 7-point plan for successful breastfeeding in the
video explains clearly why each of the best practice standards
are so important.
Available from the Baby Friendly Initiative, tel: 020 7836 5901,
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The new BFI UK website: http://www.babyfriendly.org.uk,
has a full list of Baby Friendly accredited units http://www.babyfriendly.org.uk/list.htm
breastfeeding protects infant health
study (n=264) in Kenya examined the association between breastfeeding
and nutritional status and growth. This study was partly initiated
because of the controversy regarding the nutritional basis for
recommending breastfeeding to 2 or more years. The researchers'
findings support the WHO recommendation to "continue breastfeeding
for at least 2 years, especially in settings with poor sanitation
and inadequate water supply." They conclude: "Our results
suggest that breastfeeding in the second year is a strong positive
contributor to linear growth and that when early weaning is
unavoidable, interventions to improve household sanitation could
limit its potential negative impact on child growth."
Onyango et al (1999) Continued breastfeeding and child growth
in the second year of life: a prospective cohort study in Western
Kenya. The Lancet, vol 354, pp 2041-2045
- breastfeeding at work
The International Labour Organisation Maternity Protection
Convention is being revised in June. We are working to
ensure that working mothers who want to breastfeed their
children are provided with as much support as possible
to be able to combine breastfeeding with work. Contact
Baby Milk Action for information about how you can help
and check out ILO website www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/ilc/ilc88/reports.htm
fed babies at greater risk of scalds
a 3 year period Doctors in a hospital in Sussex recorded 23
cases of scalding in children aged between 2 weeks and 3 years.
These scalds had been caused by accidental spilling of hot water
used to heat up bottles of milk. Ten of these children have
been left with permanent scarring. The authors believe that
this represents only "the tip of the iceberg". They conclude
that "the danger associated with warming milk bottles in
jugs or bowls of boiling water could also be listed as a disadvantage
of bottle feeding that could be avoided by breastfeeding".
Jeffery et al (2000) Lesson of the week, British Medical Journal,
study on infant mortality
pooled analysis of existing studies attempts to assess the extent
to which breastfeeding protects against infant and child mortality,
particularly in the light of the debate about breastfeeding
and HIV. All of the studies showed significant protective effects
of breastfeeding - although it was not possible to differentiate
between different breastfeeding patterns, such as exclusive,
predominant or partial. The analysis shows that infants who
are not breastfed have a 6-fold greater risk of dying from infectious
diseases in the first 2 months of life than those who are breastfed.
The level of protection decreases with age. The authors comment:
"Of direct relevance to the debate on HIV and breastfeeding
are the higher levels of protection seen among less educated
women...our results suggest that it will be difficult, if not
impossible, to provide safe breastmilk substitutes to children
from underpriveledged populations."
WHO Collaborative Team (2000) Effect of breastfeeding on infant
and child mortality due to infectious diseases in less developed
countries: a pooled analysis. The Lancet, vol 355, pp451-455
Week this year (1st - 7th August) focuses on "It's your right".
The aims of the week include raising awareness about the fact
that a mother has a right to breastfeed; providing information
about measures available on an international and national level
and to stimulate a shift in public thinking so that this right
is respected, protected, facilitated and fulfilled at household,
community and government levels in every country. The World Alliance
for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has produced a 6-page full colour
A4 leaflet which is available from Baby Milk Action (50p each,
for bulk orders contact us).
For more details see
the WABA website: http://www.waba.org.br
The Baby Milk Action/IBFAN
calendar is now being prepared, along with a new range of greetings
cards, and will be ready at the end of August 2000. It is an ideal
resource for NGOs, health workers, campaigners and breastfeeding
mothers. If you are interested in ordering more than 50 please
contact us now to avoid disappointment. The calendar will remain
at £5, with discounts on orders of 5 or more.
Skydive for Baby Milk
Baby Milk Action member,
Amy Forbes, is going to jump out of a perfectly good aeroplane
at 12,000 feet! By doing this she is hoping to raise in excess
of £1,000 for Baby Milk Action. Amy will do the tandem skydive
later in the year at Langar Airfield in Nottingham. Please offer
your support to Amy and Baby Milk Action, by sponsoring her. Sponsor
forms are available from Baby
New Year's Honours
We are delighted that
Patti Rundall, Policy Director of Baby Milk Action, has been awarded
an OBE for her 'services to infant nutrition' (see Patti receiving
her OBE - Baby Milk Action press release 6
June 2000. Patti has worked at Baby Milk Action for twenty
years, campaigning for legislation in the UK and Europe and on
campaigns such as the Nestlé Boycott - all in an effort to stop
the unethical marketing practices of the babyfood industry.
Baby Milk Action was
started in 1978 as a coalition of NGOs (including OXFAM, War on
Want and NCT) and individuals such as Gay Palmer, Jean Rowe, Andy
Chetley and Sadru Kheraj. Initially work was co-ordinated from
the War on Want office in London and by Sadru, who was a medical
student at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1980 Patti joined as
a full-time volunteer and for the next few years it was run from
her kitchen and then from a neighbour's spareroom. When in 1985
we became a Company Limited by Guarantee, we started to receive
more financial support and Patti was able to take a small salary
which was augmented with art teaching. From this modest start
Baby Milk Action has grown and now has an office in Cambridge,
five paid staff and many more volunteers. Over the years Patti
has developed an extensive knowledge, not just about infant feeding,
but also about legislation, development issues, politics and company
Lisa Woodburn, who joined Baby Milk Action in 1980 and has worked
alongside Patti since then.