by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Infant-formula

Apr 7 2021

The vintage Coke parody ad strikes again

A reader, Ken Kaszak, sent me a link to a post on Quora Digest featuring this “advertisement,” which I put in quotes because it is not, in fact, an actual Coca-Cola ad; it is a joke at Coca-Cola’s expense.

I know this because I wrote about it in Soda Politics.  For starters, the ad says it is produced by “The Soda Pop Board,” but no such trade association exists.  Here’s the page from Soda Politics.

I included a footnote that explains where this parody came from: “The origins of the Parody ad are explained by Dryznar J. Favor from clever dudes, March 4, 2004. http://jdryznar.livejournal.com/64477.html.  The “Not parody” image was constructed from information from AND at www.eatright.org/corporatesponsors.  The parody ad was created by RJ White, as he explains at http://rjwhite.tumblr.com/post/472668874/fact-checking.  It was posted at The City Desk: Fictional Urbanism.  http://thecitydesk.net/baby_soda_ad.”

Once something like this starts going around, there’s no stopping it, not least because this ad seems so plausible, given the kinds of marketing I describe in my book.

Remember these?  They were for real, but fortunately are not around any more.  Parents who used these bottles put in them what was on the labels.

 

 

Jun 9 2020

WHO issues status report on infant formula marketing

he WHO has launched the 2020 Status Report on the National Implementation of the Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.

The launch announcement begins:

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of protecting optimal nutrition, including breastfeeding, to improve child health and survival. Formula manufacturers are exploiting the panic and fears of contagion to intensify their aggressive marketing practices.

In this context, government action to regulate the marketing of breast-milk substitutes has never been greater. The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly resolutions (“the Code”) spell out key legal safeguards against industry practices that undermine breastfeeding.

The summary report provides data on what countries are doing to enforce the Code.  For example:

IBFAN, the International Baby Food Action Network, documents how infant formula companies are exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic to push their products.  Its press release says:

A new report by WHO, UNICEF, and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) reveals that despite efforts to stop the harmful promotion of breastmilk substitutes, countries are still falling short in protecting parents from misleading information. WHO and UNICEF call on governments to urgently strengthen legislation on the Code during the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments and civil society organizations should also not seek or accept donations of breast-milk substitutes in emergency situations.

Coronavirus is no excuse for allowing inappropriate marketing of infant formula and weaning food products to continue.

Jun 8 2020

Coronavirus marketing ploy of the week: donating infant formula

Simón Barquera of the Mexican Institute for Public Health in Cuernavaca sent me this gem.
This gives me a chance to point out that Nestlé, the largest food company in the world, is not a relative, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it.

The key phrases here:

“Together we can nourish our lives.”

“For each can of formula, Farmacias YZA, FEMSA [the Coca-Cola bottler in Mexico], and Nestlé will donate 3 more cans.”

“In tough times, we support those who need it most.”

Why is pushing infant formula a problem?  See tomorrow’s post.

Mar 16 2020

Industry funded study of the week: the benefits of infant formula

The study:  Influence of a Functional Nutrients-Enriched Infant Formula on Language Development in Healthy Children at Four Years Old.  Ana Nieto-Ruiz, et al.  Nutrients 202012(2), 535; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12020535

Conclusion: “The functional compound-enriched infant formula seems to be associated with beneficial long-term effects in the development of child’s language at four years old in a similar way to breastfed infants.”

Funding: “This project has been funded by Ordesa Laboratories, S.L.” Ordesa Laboratories, you will not be surprised to know, makes infant formula products.

Comment:  Infant formula companies have a problem: the products are virtually identical in nutrient composition (they all have to meet the same nutritional standards), babies only need them for the first year at most, and the number of babies is finite.  From the formula industry’s perspective, the challenge is how to increase sales.  This study shows that formula works pretty much as well as breast milk, no surprise.
But it got press attention: “Nutrient-enriched infant formula appears beneficial for kid’s language development, study finds.”

Feb 26 2020

What’s up with infant formula?

DairyReporter.com has a Special Edition on infant feeding 

Infant formula companies have a problem: the products are virtually identical in nutrient composition (they all have to meet the same FDA standards), babies only need them for the first year, and the number of babies is finite.  From the formula industry’s perspective, the challenge is how to increase sales.  Here’s how this industry is managing this challenge.

Where next for infant nutrition?

In this special edition, we take a look at the infant formula sector, which far from being static is changing through novel ingredients, smart packaging, the explosion in plant-based products, and production of breast milk from cells.

Feb 19 2020

Formula companies push “toddler milk”

Formula companies must be desperate for sales.  They are spending four times what they used to on advertising of “toddler milk,” formula ostensibly aimed at children who no longer need infant formula and are perfectly capable of eating real food.

So says a new study in the journal Public Health Nutrition.  The study comes from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, now at the University of Connecticut in Hartford, a group specializing in research to inform policy.

The report points out that increasing sales of toddler formula come at a time when pediatric authorities specifically recommend against feeding toddler milks to young children.

Why?  Because young kids do not need them and the milks contain unnecessary added sugars.

As the paper points out, “These findings also support the need to regulate marketing of toddler milks in countries that prohibit infant formula marketing to consumers.”

The advertising of toddler milks gets around those policies and should stop.  Right now.

Jul 11 2019

A roundup of articles on the infant formula industry

DairyReporter.com is another one of those industry newsletters I so enjoy reading.  This particular article is a roundup of articles on the infant formula industry.

Special Edition: Infant nutrition

The field of infant nutrition is a constantly evolving one, as new ingredients are constantly being added to provide greater benefits, and products are being developed to more closely approximate breast milk for those unable to breast feed. In this special edition, DairyReporter takes a look at some recent innovation in the infant nutrition space.

Breastfeeding, anyone?

 

Jul 16 2018

The Trump Administration’s support of infant formula v. breastfeeding

By this time, you have no doubt heard about the Trump Administration’s attempts to stop the World Health Organization from promoting breastfeeding.  Incredible but true.

Here is a brief timeline of how this story got out.

May 25   Lucy Sullivan, executive director o 1000 Days (the first 1000 days of life are critical to an infant’s survival) sent out a tweet warning of a battle brewing over breastfeeding at WHO’s World Health Assembly, where countries are negotiating a resolution on infant and young child feeding.

June 7   Amruta Byatnal writes about “A Moment of Reckoning for Nutrition Advocates at the WHA” [World Health Assembly: “Nutrition advocates have accused the U.S. of siding with private sector interests, sparking a controversy over what they assumed would be a routine effort to provide advice on breastfeeding and the use of breast milk substitutes.”

July 8  The New York Times takes the story national: “Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution by U.S. Stuns World Health Officials.”  The Guardian also publishes an account.   These make it clear that the Trump Administration threatened Ecuador to drop its support of breastfeeding.  As the Times put it,

The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced….The confrontation was the latest example of the Trump administration siding with corporate interests on numerous public health and environmental issues.

Ironically, Russia stepped in and introduced the measure, which passed despite US attempts to block it.

July 9  President Trump sends out a tweet:

July 9  Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, also sends out a tweet, supporting the President: “America has a long history of supporting mothers and breastfeeding around the world and is the largest bilateral donor of such foreign assistance programs. Those unable to breastfeed shouldn’t be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with info and access to alternatives.”

July 9  The New York Times publishes an editorial: “Why Breast-Feeding Scares Donald Trump.”  Its answer: “It comes down to public health abroad could hurt American companies’ profits.”

What this is about

Infant formula works for babies, but breastfeeding is demonstrably better.  This is especially true for women who cannot afford formula, do not have clean water to dilute the powder properly, or lack refrigeration to store formula properly.

But breastfeeding has a serious political problem: it does not make money for formula companies.  As I explained in Waht to Eat:

Infant formulas cause controversy and are endlessly contentious for three important reasons.  Formulas are (1) largely unnecessary (most mothers can breast feed their infants), (2) not as perfect as breast milk for feeding babies, and (3) more expensive than breast feeding.  Breast milk is nutritionally superior to formula, but from a marketing standpoint it has one serious disadvantage: it is free.   Beyond one-time purchases of breast pumps, storage bottles, or special clothing, nobody makes money from it.

Formula companies are happy to pay lip service to “breast is best,” as long as policies do not promote breastfeeding over formula.

This is not the first time the US has taken this position.  In 1981, when the United Nations developed the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, all of its member countries agreed to abide by the Code except for the United States and South Africa.  Eventually, South Africa signed on.  The U.S. was the last hold out and did not agree to abide by the Code until 1994.  Why not?  Because the Code could set a precedent that might adversely affect U.S. corporations.

The Washington Post (“US efforts”) and The Atlantic (“epic battle”) review this history.

The formula industry’s problem

As I also explained in What to Eat, only about 4 million babies are born in the US each year, meaning that the formula market is limited and static.  That is why formula companies work so hard to convince mothers that breastfeeding is too difficult, unsanitary, inefficient, and ineffective to continue, and that they would be better off switching to formulas and staying on formulas long past the time when babies should be eating solid foods.

The reactions

My favorites are from

Add this to the growing list of ways the Trump Administration favors corporate interests over public health. Alas.

Additions

Maplight reports:

Three of the largest infant formula companies — U.S.-based Abbott Laboratories, Swiss-based Nestle, and U.K.-based Reckitt Benckiser — have spent $60.7 million lobbying U.S. lawmakers and officials during the last decade….While the New York Times reported that the formula manufacturers didn’t play a visible role in the debate over the WHO resolution, lobbying records show they have a significant Capitol Hill presence that often extends beyond infant nutrition.

Stephen Colbert’s take