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Seeing through the Spin education pack

Issue 29: June 2001

The news items which appear on this page also appear in the printed version of Update.

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Table of Contents


  • Commercialisation of schools
    • Companies move in to schools - UK Teachers say no to commercialisation
    • in Russian schools...
    • in British schools...
    • in Indian schools...
    • Teachers BEWARE - bogus history
    • The campaign to revive public services

Nancy Jo Peck

It is with enormous sadness that we report the death of Nancy Jo Peck in February. Nancy Jo was a founder of IBFAN Geneva (GIFA) and its scientific expert for nearly 20 years. She was a key person in so many projects: she was the author of Breastfeeding Briefs and co-ordinated IBFAN's work on Codex, WTO, the UN and the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Nancy Jo was with us on all our visits to Nestlé's shareholder meetings. We miss her terribly, as a dear friend and colleague and for her perspective on all these issues. Our love and sympathy go to Bob, Sarah and Amy.
  • Breaking the Rules 2001

  • Latest Research
    • Summary of IBFAN Statement on Breastfeeding and Dioxins
    • Negative media on breastfeeding
    • HIV and Exclusive breastfeeding
    • Peer counsellors increase exclusive breastfeeding
    • In brief
  • Information
    • Baby Milk Action AGM 2001
    • Soya baby milk alert
    • Breastfeeding support lines
    • 1st - 7th August 2001 Breastfeeding in the Information Age...
    • National Breastfeeding Awareness Week (UK)
    • Good news for working mothers
    • Infant feeding in emergencies
    • Breastfeeding: Practice & Policy Course
  • Round up
    • New Baby Milk Action merchandise
    • London Marathon - lets make £1000!
    • Hello Jon!

Baby Milk Action is a non-profit organisation which aims to save infant lives and to end the avoidable suffering caused by inappropriate infant feeding by working within a global network for independent, transparent and effective controls on the marketing of the baby feeding industry.

The global network is called IBFAN (the International Baby Food Action Network) a network of over 150 citizens groups in over 90 countries.

Boycott news

Supplement with the latest on the Nestlé boycott

Science defeats vested interests at the World Health Assembly

Twenty years after the International Code was passed another landmark Resolution has been adopted by the 54th World Health Assembly in Geneva - this time affirming the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for six months. Originally put forward by Brazil in May 2000, the Resolution follows 15 hours of discussion at WHO's Executive Board in January, a review of over 3,000 papers by an Expert Committee in March and opposition by the baby food industry.

Resolution WHA 54.2 settles a 7-year controversy over at least two aspects of the baby food issue - the optimal duration for exclusive breastfeeding and the marketing of complementary foods for infants. Clarity on these issues will support policies aiming to improve infant health and decrease rates of mortality and morbidity globally. The Resolution also contains important protective clauses regarding health claims, internet advertising and human rights.

Denise Coitinho, Head of Food and Nutrition Policy Unit at the Ministry of Health, Brazil and Cesar Victora, Prof of Epidemiology at the University Pelotas (4th & 5th from the right, back row) join IBFANers to celebrate. Prof Victora was a member of WHO's Expert Committee and has never accepted funding from the baby food industry. Witnessing the struggles to get the recommendation through he said: "I'm really pleased to see that scientific evidence can result in changes in a global policy - for 15 years we have been accumulating evidence on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding and it's a great pleasure that this has at last led to a change in global policy. The scientist's greatest frustration is when our studies do not result in changes in the real world."
Photo: Baby Milk Action.

It was acknowledged that cultural practices which may currently undermine exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months for some women will have to be addressed. However, Dr Tomris Turmen, speaking for WHO's Secretariat, referred to 3 studies in Brazil, Mexico and Bangladesh (see below) which demonstrated that simple interventions that support mothers could rapidly and effectively increase rates of exclusive breastfeeding.

Over 60 countries and NGOs spoke out strongly in support of the Resolution, including IBFAN and Save the Children who also urged WHO to show caution in its relations with the private sector and to ensure that its health policies reflect the best available science. Finally, all countries, including the United States, joined the consensus. Prof. Dr. Abdul Malik Kasi, Pakistan's Minister for Health, said his country had been a key supporter of the Code and is working to introduce legislation which the industry has been attempting to stop for the past decade. He called on WHO to launch a campaign to halt industry pressure against the Code.

The International Association of Infant Food Manufacturers (IFM) attempted and failed to undermine the Resolution. Nestlé, in a convoluted statement welcomed the results of WHO's Expert Consultation referenced by the Resolution but failed to say whether it would change its labels and stop undermining implementation of a related Resolution (WHA 47.5) adopted 7 years ago. Since Nestlé is the founder and lead member of IFM, we have written to ask if it will now resign from IFM or publicly denounce the Association's opposition to this important health policy.

WHA 54.2 (full text) urges governments to:

" exclusive breastfeeding for six months as a global public health recommendation taking into account the findings of the WHO Expert Technical Consultation on optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding and to provide safe and appropriate complementary foods, with continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond...."

See the IBFAN Website for documents on the Assembly meeting, including the conclusions of the WHO Expert Consultation.

Politics, science and marketing

As the debate about the global policy on exclusive breastfeeding reached its peak, several new studies were published which appeared to raise doubts about its value. Valid research should never be suppressed, but here we take a look at these studies and the way they were covered in the media and understood by the public.As the debate about the global policy on exclusive breastfeeding reached its peak, several new studies were published which appeared to raise doubts about its value. Valid research should never be suppressed, but here we take a look at these studies and the way they were covered in the media and understood by the public.

Heart disease

A study about heart disease was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in March, accompanied by 2 press releases and a leader article (Leeson et al, (2001) Duration of breastfeeding and arterial distensibility in early adult life: population based study, BMJ, Vol. 322, (643-647))

It received worldwide media coverage including at least 5 reports in India the following day - all suggesting that breastfeeding after 4 months actually causes heart disease. In the UK many women stopped breastfeeding immediately.

Although the study was funded by the Medical Research Council, one of its authors, Prof Alan Lucas, regularly collaborates with the baby food industry on other research and has designed several infant formulas. Prof Lucas vigorously defends both industry funding and his independence.

Certain salient points, failed to appear in either the summary or the press releases and few read the actual text which stated that the data did not "establish a causal relationship between the length of breastfeeding and cardiovascular disease."

There was no mention of the beneficial effect of breastfeeding on blood pressure and obesity, and Alan Lucas later admitted that if there is a problem it is likely to relate more to the Western diet that follows than to breastfeeding itself. Even though the study was based on 20-30 year recall and did not contain details of infant diets, the text referred specifically to participants as being "exclusively breastfed for less than four months."

The paper generated a large number of critical responses which can be found on the BMJ website.

Peanut allergy

Soon after, front page headlines in Canada stated "Breastfeeding can spur peanut allergy, study says"

The study, published in April in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Valdas et al, (2001) Detection of Peanut Allergens in Breast Milk of Lactating Women. JAMA 285:1746-1748), was partially funded by Nestlé.

The researchers gave 23 mothers half a cup of peanuts after a fast. Peanut proteins appeared in the breastmilk of 11 mothers but cleared after two hours. There was no evidence that breastfeeding was in any way linked to increased allergies.

It is clearly vital that research is done into these important issues, but it must be independent and must use sound methodology.

HIV, patents and human breastmilk

Some of the companies which are undermining breastfeeding and marketing their products as the solution to HIV transmission have taken out patents on certain components of breastmilk, including lactoferrin - known to have anti-viral properties which denature HIV. In recent years even more discoveries have been made about the rich make-up of breastmilk. For example, it is now known that breastmilk contains proteins (called lysozymes) which destroy HIV.

See article by Baby Milk Action published in International Health Exchange (April 2001) called "Saviours or culprits? HIV, infant feeding and commercial interest."

HIV - relative risks for babies

It is a common misconception that all women diagnosed as being infected with HIV will pass the virus to their infants. This is not the case.

Of 100 women in a community with 20% HIV prevalence among women at delivery:

  • 20 of the women will be infected with HIV

  • 13 of these women who are HIV infected are likely not to pass the virus to their infants

  • 7 are likely to pass the virus to their infants (prior to, during, or after, the birth of the infant).

  • Of these 7, 4 are likely to pass the virus during pregnancy or at the birth. 3 are likely to pass the virus through breastfeeding.

  • 97 of the 100 women will probably not pass the virus to their child by breastfeeding.

1.7 million babies might have contracted HIV through breastmilk in the last 20 years. Over 30 million babies will have died from lack of breastfeeding in the same period.

(adapted from UNICEF 2000, Linkages 2001)

HIV and breastfeeding - unethical research on maternal deaths?

As health services in Southern African countries struggle to cope with the HIV pandemic, two starkly different reports are raising the temperature of the debate and creating more confusion about HIV and breastfeeding. One is the follow-up study from South Africa showing the protective effect of exclusive breastfeeding, the other is from Kenya and suggests that breastfeeding is linked to higher maternal mortality. Meanwhile baby food companies step up visits to hospitals.

The official UN position is to support exclusive breastfeeding when safe access and conditionalities for artificial feeding cannot be assured. Despite this some governments and NGOs now distribute free formula to all women who are infected with HIV regardless of their social and economic situation. There is growing evidence that this is having a detrimental effect on infant health and on support for breastfeeding, not only for those affected by HIV, but also in the population at large.

The follow-up paper by Anna Coutsoudis in South Africa (see below) gives evidence of an encouraging outcome for babies and mothers who exclusively breastfed with no evidence of association between increased mortality or clinical problems and breastfeeding for either group.

In stark contrast a 2-year follow-up study by Ruth Nduati in Kenya, was published in the Lancet on 25 May. (Effect of breastfeeding on mortality among HIV-1 infected women: a randomised trial. The Lancet, Vol 357, May 26, 2001). This was accompanied by a Lancet press release with the alarmist headline: "Three-fold increased risk of death among HIV-1 infected breastfeeding mothers" and a commentary by Dr Marie-Louise Newell of the Institute of Child Health. The commentary seriously questioned the study's ethics, protocol and lack of clarity, and drew attention to Coutsoudis' very different findings.

Numerous concerns have been expressed about the Nduati study, including by WHO. For example, the breastfeeding mothers had higher viral loads at the outset, their babies had double the risk of transmission at birth, and no information was available on the quality of care given to both groups of mothers.

Many UK papers dropped the story as a result of Dr Newell's critical analysis but Reuters went ahead, mentioning only a few of Dr Newell's reservations at the very end. This was further cropped and distorted by the New York Times (25th May) which implied that Dr Newell accepts the findings: "more research is needed to confirm the findings and to understand exactly how breast-feeding raises the risk of death in HIV-positive women."

Ruth Nduati herself accepts that there are drawbacks in her study yet, unlike Dr Coutsoudis, who has consistently urged caution, Dr Nduati hastily concludes that the results "have important implications for public health policy" and that "Counselling...should include discussion of potential risks to the mother's health from breastfeeding..."

Coutsoudis is criticised because hers is the only study of its kind and its original focus was HIV and vitamin A supplementation. Yet Ruth Nduati set out to look at outcomes in babies not the impact of breastfeeding on maternal mortality (and the study on heart disease originally set out to look at infant weight! - see above)

Stop press: WHO has issued a statement in response to the study. Read it on the IBFAN Website

  • Nestlé is reportedly stepping up its visits to clinics in Southern Africa, promoting its new expensive 'acidified' formula Pelargon which it claims destroys bacteria.

  • In December the Wall Street Journal, followed by many other papers, made a vicious attack on UNICEF over its refusal of donations of formula for the UN pilot projects on the reduction of HIV through mother to child transmission. The British Medical Journal and the Swiss, Le Courrier, countered with more balanced articles.

The President of Botswana meets NGOs

The President of Botswana met NGOs from the UK NGO Aids Consortium in London in March to ask for help and advice in the fight against AIDS. Botswana has one of the highest rates of HIV infection (17%) but even with its revenue from diamonds, is facing a chronic lack of human resources.

Baby Milk Action reported on the concerns about the impact of the provision of formula, the lack of follow-up and the way breastfeeding was being undermined. In some cases, mothers were reported to have been offered free anti-retrovirals only on condition they agree to formula feed from birth. The President denied the last point but said that the provision of formula was on the advice of NGOs among whom there seems to be no consensus about breastfeeding. We expressed our concerns about partnerships with and involvement of for-profit industries.

After the meeting we were challenged by a representative of one of the companies involved in the legal battle against South Africa over drug patents - GlaxoSmithKline - who had gained access to the meeting. GSK is considering a $1.5b merger with the US babyfood giant Abbott Ross.

International policy

Codex says no health claims on foods for infants and young children

Along with GM labelling, health claims, the validity of 'science' and the need for independent funding for research were hot topics at the Codex Alimentarius meeting on labelling in Ottowa in May. Codex is the body which sets global food standards which are used for world trade.

Baby Milk Action joined INFACT Canada, Consumers International and other NGOs in calling for a ban on health claims, especially for breastmilk substitutes. We also called for better nutrition labelling and warnings on bottled waters.

Many countries shared our concerns about the way the food industry uses health claims and dubious science to market unnecessary and sometimes unhealthy foods, often undermining national nutrition policies.

Claims such as this on Abbott-Ross's Similac, would no longer be allowed (as shown in IBFAN new international monitoring report Breaking the Rules)

After years of lobbying IBFAN's proposals were accepted and Codex recommended that health claims on foods for infants and young children should not be used.

It will be important to protect this provision through the remaining steps in the process. Meanwhile this new draft standard should be used in trade disputes.

Legally binding framework - or voluntary controls?

At a meeting the day after the EU Parliamentary Hearing in November (see Boycott News 29) Baby Milk Action asked the EU Trade Commissioner, Pascal Lamy, for his views on the EU Parliament's proposals for a legally binding framework which would be independently monitored and would call transnational companies to account. Disappointingly, Commissioner Lamy said that the guidelines for Multinational Enterprises drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) took precedence. The OECD guidelines are voluntary and companies are merely 'invited' to respect minimum principles and standards of behaviour. They are not seen as an obligation imposed from above.

We have also raised concerns about the need to assess the extent of influence of sponsorship in health and education services. The official position is that national governments must decide these issues. We asked whether the EU would consider controls, such as an EU-wide ban on marketing in schools, to ensure that health and education services, especially in the developing world, are not damaged by market interests. The representative for the services industries responded and said quite simply: if the controls are too strict companies won't like it. The bottom line is they have to make a profit.

Perspectives on education

(including quotes about our education pack on corporate sponsorship, Seeing through the Spin, which you can download or purchase from our Virtual Shop)

"All too often the education process is entrusted to people who appear to have no understanding of industry and the path of progress..The provision of education is a market opportunity and should be treated as such"

European Round Table of Industrialists, 1988

"Seeing Through The Spin is a powerful piece of corporate counter-spin, a crucial and trustworthy tool for teachers to help their students understand the barrage of public relations disguised as education"

Naomi Klein, author No Logo

"The corporate takeover of schools is one of the most terrifying aspects of the domination of public life by big business. Seeing through the Spin is an invaluable guide to the transformation of young people in the UK into marketable commodities."

George Monbiot, author of Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain

"I have spent many hours studying your fascinating education pack. It is a marvellous production, thought provoking and well constructed to facilitate debate and awareness on critically important issues...the summary descriptions of each of major world corporations do justice to the claims and achievements of the corporations themselves, while also raising legitmate concerns about each one... That is what education is about, encouraging thought and discussion, not stuffing students' minds with the conclusions of partisan adults."

Dr Walter Barker, Director, Early Childhood Development Centre, Bristol

Commercialisation of schools

Companies move in to schools - UK Teachers say no to commercialisation

Why would a company selling high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar foods and baby foods want to fund nutrition education in Russia? As British teachers and NGOs take action to protect the independence of our health and education services, the companies use more spin to cover up.

At its conference in April, attended by 980 delegates, the National Union of Teachers - representing 50% of British teachers - voted unanimously against the privatisation of the British education system and the distortion of the curriculum by commercialisation. The NUT will be mounting a national campaign to push this forward.

As teachers are coming under increasing pressure to accept schemes which push junk foods in exchange for cash or books - UK health and consumer groups are calling for a ban of advertising to children, including marketing in schools. The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has commissioned research into parental attitudes to promotion to children, including the school sponsorship schemes. The FSA will also try to find out what has an effect on eating patterns. But it is not looking into the health impact.

Aware of the concern, companies are developing new materials - Coca Cola's Corporate Citizen in the Community, and its literacy programmes for the under-privileged, Nestlé's new worksheets and brochure, Nestlé in the Community, - talk about 'sustainable development', 'Rio' and 'Kyoto' etc. But is this just a more professional gloss on what is still essentially marketing?

Perhaps Seeing Through the Spin, Baby Milk Action's education pack, which is designed to encourage people to think through these issues without promoting a particular ideology, will help us decide.

in Russian schools...

A mixed economy may be a good thing but where should the line be drawn? By the end of the year Nestlé's Good Nutrition programs will have reached 120,000 children in 2,000 schools in 17 regions in Russia. Education or branding?

in British schools...

  • Suggested tasks and activities in a work-sheet : "Carry out a survey of 30 mint consumers to find out which of the four variants of Polo they find most appealing." - Nestlé/Times 100

  • A Boots sponsored teaching pack with the West Sussex Education Business Partnership, 'Living with Numbers', offers gifts and promotes organic baby foods from 4 months.

  • Walkers Crisps pay to film a TV advert in a London primary school, disrupting the whole school's work for a day.

In Indian schools...

Nestlé promotion in Harvard Public School, Delhi, in April. Nestlé distributed Kit-Kat and Milo free to the children.

Photos: BPNI, April 2001

Teachers BEWARE - bogus history

A multimedia CD, The Controversy Over the Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes has been produced by the Council for Ethics in Economics and is being distributed by Nestlé in the UK as a teaching resource for the 'over 16s.' CEE is an NGO based in Columbus, Ohio, but set up in 1982 specifically to help resolve the baby milk controversy and end the first phase of the Nestlé Boycott.

Although presented as 'independent' the case study was initiated and funded by Nestlé and is itself a fascinating case-study of corporate PR.

In 1995 the researchers asked to interview Baby Milk Action. We agreed on condition that Nestlé's sponsorship would be made explicit. This assurance could not be given so the interview did not go ahead.

The campaign to revive public services

The campaign to revive public services is backed by the World Development Movement and many other organisations - and an Early Day Motion (260) has been supported by 228 MPs.

NGOs are concerned that the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) - if passed - will give the World Trade Organisation and the corporations who run it unprecedented rights and power over many aspects of our lives.

Breaking the Rules 2001

The IBFAN report Breaking the Rules 2001 was launched to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Code in May 2001. The report is based on a survey of 14 countries, and the examples below demonstrate the range of companies and violations cited. Since the last report (in 1998) there has been an increase in company malpractices such as donating free supplies, Internet advertising and direct promotion to mothers. Significantly, in countries where there are no laws and no monitoring, it is a free-for-all for company marketing.

A copy of the report Breaking the Rules 2001 can be ordered from Baby Milk Action's Virtual Shop or downloaded from the IBFAN website. Also available are the new State of the Code Charts 2001 detailing Code implementation by country and company.

Some examples of violations detected are given below.

WHO’s Director-General, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland (left), joined IBFAN to celebrate 20 years of the Code. She congratulated IBFAN on their vital role in developing the Code.
She asked Annelies Allain whether Breaking the Rulesis ‘evidence based’. "I would not be so exhausted if it was not!” said Annelies.
Photo: Baby Milk Action

1 Nestlé in Cote d'Ivoire

contacts mothers in health facilities and at home to promote products and give free samples such as Nativa and Cerelac. (Nestlé continue to be the worst violators of the Code, see Boycott News 29)

2 Milupa in Hong Kong

donates unsolicited supplies of Aptamil to health facilities.

3 Wyeth in Uruguay

have point-of-sale promotion in shops with customer discounts for Promil and S-26.

4 Abbott-Ross in Canada

places Isomil gift bags in a municipal family practice unit for distribution to mothers.

5 Mead Johnson in Taiwan

pays hospitals US$25-30 per infant in return for exclusive rights over certain periods.

6 Heinz in Italy

distributes free samples of Dieterba and Vivena AR 1 to mothers in health facilities. In some facilities they also hand out samples of complementary foods.

7 Cow & Gate (Nutricia) in Russia

send reps to visit a health care facility 3 times a week to advise mothers about infant feeding.

8 Hipp in the United Arab Emirates

have infant formula labels only in English - not in the local language.

9 Gerber in the USA

offers a 24-hour free helpline that is said to respond to over 650,000 calls each year from parents asking how to feed and care for their babies.

10 Danone in Ghana

gives gifts to health workers such as notepads, pens and deskpads advertising Blédina and Phosphatine.

Bottles and teats

These continue to be marketed in ways which undermine breastfeeding. For example, an Italian company called Mister Baby has a teat which makes claims such as: "Small and soft like mother's breast"; "particularly recommended for the first months" and "for natural uninterrupted feeding".


Companies are increasingly using the web to promote their products. Mead Johnson sponsors a paediatric nutrition information website. It is difficult to access this site without going via Mead Johnson's formula pages. (See also Nestlé's website in Boycott News 29)

Research latest

Summary of IBFAN Statement on Breastfeeding and Dioxins

There are an increasing number of media reports about the problems caused by dioxins.

Dioxins are environmental contaminants found mainly in the food chain, so they are absorbed by humans. Dioxins are stored in body fat and are extremely persistent. Absorption takes place mainly through the food we eat but also through the air we breathe. Breastmilk is often cited as a source of dioxins - but this is because fat soluable contaminants are relatively easily measured in breastmilk, not because breastmilk is any more contaminated than other body parts.

Review of available scientific literature indicates that a high level of dioxin contamination during pregnancy can lead to the impairment of child growth and development. Importantly however, it was concluded that breastfeeding, even in a contaminated environment, has a positive impact on the development of children as compared to those artificially fed.

As a result of these findings, a number of countries have advocated that breastfeeding should continue to be recommended without any restriction on duration.

IBFAN agrees with this and believes that the debate about dioxin contamination should not unduly influence a mother's decision as to whether or not to breastfeed.

  • Breastmilk provides optimal, unique and perfectly balanced nutrition for a baby.

  • Breastfeeding affords many irreplaceable health advantages for both mother and child.

  • Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should be alert to the problems caused by chemical contaminants.

  • All citizens should work to raise awareness of the dangers of environmental pollution. IBFAN urgently calls upon decision makers in industry and politics to adopt environmentally-friendly initiatives in production and waste-disposal, to promote political awareness of ecological dangers, and to create the appropriate legal framework to prevent the harmful contamination of our environment and to protect the health of our children, both present and future generations.

Full referenced statement available on the IBFAN Website.

Negative media on breastfeeding

Researchers looking at visual and verbal references to infant feeding in the media found that firstly, artificial feeding was portrayed more often than breastfeeding, and secondly, that "the media rarely present positive information on breastfeeding". When breastfeeding was shown it was associated with being humorous, embarrassing or problematic.

Ref: Henderson L et al (2000) Representing infant feeding: content analysis of British media portrayals of bottle feeding and breastfeeding. British Medical Journal, 321:1196-1198

HIV and Exclusive breastfeeding

In Update 26 we reported on the initial outcomes of a study in South Africa looking at the effect of different infant feeding patterns on HIV transmission. The follow-up study to 15 months has now been published and found that "infants exclusively breastfed for 3 months or more had no excess risk of HIV infection than those never breastfed." There is an urgent need for further independent research into truly exclusive breastfeeding. If the findings are confirmed the impact on public health policy would be huge. (Also see above)

Ref: Coutsoudis A et al (2001) Method of feeding and transmission of HIV-1 from mothers to children by 15 months of age: prospective cohort study from Durban, South Africa. AIDS, 15:379-378

Peer counsellors increase exclusive breastfeeding

95% of women in Bangladesh give birth at home, so hospital strategies to increase breastfeeding do not reach them. In a community-based study in Dhaka, peer counsellors (mothers who had received 10 days training), made a total of 15 visits to mothers to encourage and support them to exclusively breastfeed. At 5 months the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding among those who had been visited by the peer counsellors was 70% as compared with only 6% in the control group who did not receive counselling. This study should provide reassurance that exclusive breastfeeding can be increased.

Ref: Haider R et al (2000) Effect of community-based peer counsellors on exclusive breastfeeding practices in Dhaka, Bangladesh: a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 356:1643-1647

In brief

  • A study published in Diabetes (2000, 49:1657-1665) found that early exposure in life to cow's milk can lead to an increased risk of diabetes in children already at higher risk of getting the disease.

  • A study of 808 Chinese women who breastfed long-term (for at least 2 years) reduced their risk of developing breast cancer by 50%. (American Journal of Epidemiology 2001, 152:1129-1135)


Baby Milk Action AGM 2001

This year's AGM was held in Cambridge on 27th January. Gary Woolley was re-elected and Catherine Woodhouse was elected as a Director. The minutes of the previous AGM, and the accounts for the last year were presented and accepted (they are available to members on request).

The guest speaker was Bridget Halnan, a Health Visitor from Cambridge, who described her research which looked at why health visitors were more likely to 'recommend' one brand of artificial baby milk rather than another.

Bridget's qualitative study found that health visitors had not received formal training on the different types of artificial baby milk, and, as a result of this, were largely dependent on other sources of information on which to base their advice to mothers. Health visitors in areas where the WHO Code was not adhered to were more likely to be strongly influenced by the company reps. One of the conclusions of the study was that health visitors should re-examine their use and distribution of company products in order to provide a non-commercial environment.

Soya baby milk alert

There have been concerns about the health of some babies who have been fed on soya-based artificial baby milk. Lawyers in new Zealand are compiling an extensive database of possible links with thyroid and reproductive disorders. For more details email Johnston Lawyers at:

For more information on soya baby milks see

Breastfeeding Support Lines

In January the National Childbirth Trust launched its new UK-wide breastfeeding support line. Parents phoning this number will be connected to an NCT volunteer breastfeeding counsellor. The number is: 0870 444 8708 (open 8am - 10pm 7 days a week)

The Breastfeeding Network support line continues to provide mothers with help between 9.30am and 9.30pm. Tel: 0870 900 8787

The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers has a 24 hour helpline, tel: 020 7813 1481

The telephone number for La Leche League is 0115 954 5772.

1st - 7th August 2001 Breastfeeding in the Information Age... the theme of this year's World Breastfeeding Week. WBW aims to highlight key breastfeeding information; to share ideas and experiences on issues such as threats to breastfeeding, and to provide helpful and innovative support for breastfeeding mothers. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has produced an action sheet. Look at: for more details.

National Breastfeeding Awareness Week (UK)

The general theme of the week (13th - 19th May) continued to be 'inequalities', but with an emphasis on getting across the health benefits of breastfeeding to target groups. Details of posters etc available from Robert Finch; email:

Good news for working mothers

In Update 28 we reported on the new ILO Maternity Protection Convention (No. 183). Two countries - Italy and Slovakia - have now ratified the Convention which means that as from February 2002 it will enter into force. Provisions of the new Convention include an extension of maternity leave from 12 to 14 weeks.

Infant feeding in Emergencies

Two European IBFAN groups (GIFA-Switzerland, WEMOS -The Netherlands) have produced a new 12-page, 3-colour brochure which contains clear and concise information on the problems caused by the often well-intentioned gifts of powdered milks to aid organisations. It also summarises good infant feeding practices in emergency situations. Available in the Virtual Shop.

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 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, as clinicians, trainers or programme organisers. This year the course will be held from 2nd - 27th July. For further details contact: +44 20 7905 2122, email:

Round up

New Baby Milk Action merchandise!

Baby Milk Action has produced a colourful new range of greetings cards and postcards. They feature pictures of women breastfeeding in different countries around the world. We also now have a new T-shirt design and a new poster. These items can be ordered from our Virtual Shop, over the phone with debit/credit card or using snail mail and the reply form contained with the printed version of Update.

London Marathon - lets make £1000!

Helen Webster, Baby Milk Action member and ex-volunteer, ran the London Marathon on 22nd April.

After only 7 months training, Helen completed the run in 5.5 hours! This athletic feat was in aid of Baby Milk Action.

We were hoping to get this newsletter out before the run took place, complete with sponsorship forms. Oops - we missed that deadline, but it is still not too late to send a donation. Helen has already collected over £600.

You can make a donation on line through the Virtual Shop. Alternatively send a cheque payable to 'Baby Milk Action' and note stating that it is in support of Helen's run to Baby Milk Action, 23 St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX.

Thank you for any support you can give. (NB she says this is her first and last marathon!)

Hello Jon!

Jon Dorsett has joined us as Campaigns Officer. With past experience of campaigning work with Oxfam and Jubilee 2000, he is well qualified to help raise awareness of the baby milk issue. He will be forging stronger links with student groups, environmental groups and trade unions. Please contact Jon at head office if you need help with starting up a campaign locally on this issue.

His email is: