I’m keynoting the launch of the 2022-2023 Dr. Rogers Prize at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre, 1000 Burrard Street, 6:00 pm reception, my talk is at 7:00 pm. I’m not getting the $250,000 prize (alas), I’m just celebrating it. It’s for a Canadian doing complementary and alternative medicine.
The UNICEF-WHO Congress on infant formula marketing: a brief report
Last week, I attended and spoke at the UNICEF-WHO Global Congress on Implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes at WHO headquarters in Geneva.
The meeting was attended by more than 400 government, health, and advocacy representatives from more than 100 countries. Representatives of infant formula companies were not invited to participate.
Its purpose was to encourage governments to promote and enforce the International Code, which nearly all U.N. member states ratified and committed to in 1981 (the U.S. was a long-standing holdout).
This meant they would control inappropriate marketing of infant formulas by banning advertising to people who are pregnant or nursing, gifts of formula samples, and doing anything to make formula appear superior to breastfeeding.
The logic of the Congress:
- Breastfeeding is the superior method for feeding human babies.
- Successful breastfeeding requires support from families, society, and government.
- It is quite easy to undermine confidence in the ability to breastfeed.
- Formula companies do all they can to undermine confidence in breastfeeding.
- Formula companies’ main goal is to sell more formula.
- Formula companies promote their products as normal and superior.
- Breastfeeding is easier when formula marketing is controlled.y
I talked about the food industry “playbook”—strategies and tactics used by industries (tobacco, chemical, drug, alcohol, and food as well as infant formula) to cast doubt on unfavorable research, fund their own research, and lobby against public health recommendations (photo: Arum Gupta).
Many country representatives discussed the effects of the playbook in their areas, and what they are trying to do to stop formula companies from using the playbook to get around the Code.
The general consensus: Formula companies should NOT be allowed to:
- Advertise or market products in violation of the Code.
- Participate in public health policymaking.
- Partner with relevant government agencies or non-governmental groups.
Obviously, formula companies are not happy with such recommendations. If you would like to see an example of the playbook in action, take a look at the response from the International Special Dietary Foods Industries.
It was exciting to be with so many people who cared so deeply about this issue.