Formula and infant food manufacturers urged to implement WHO marketing recommendations

Despite the World Health Assembly (WHA) adopting ‘The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes’ 40 years ago and passing 18 associated resolutions since (collectively referred to as ‘The Code’), the BMS/CF Marketing Index 2021 found none of the companies it assessed fully abides by The Code’s recommendations; and most fall well short.

The nine companies assessed are: Abbott, China Feihe Limited, China Mengniu Dairy Company Limited, Danone, Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group, The KraftHeinz Company, Koninklijke FrieslandCampina, Nestlé S.A. and Reckitt. In 2019, these companies accounted for global sales in the baby food segment of nearly $38bn and 52{b4bb8ddb70249670c85c66def16f765bd40a90ddaa69bcee7e340d9a7e1b07a9} of the market, combined.

“Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, there was resounding evidence that increasing breastfeeding rates around the world to near universal levels could prevent 823,000 deaths in children younger than five years old each year,”​ said Inge Kauer, executive director of ATNI.

“The pandemic has underlined the importance of breastfeeding in providing babies with natural immunity to Covid-19, as well as many other communicable and non-communicable diseases over their lifetimes.”

The ATNI said marketing of breast-milk substitutes has been shown by extensive independent research to be one of the factors that undermines women’s choice to breastfeed. It added brands must play their part by marketing their products responsibly and in line with The Code, so women can make informed decisions about how to feed their children. It is particularly important that companies make this commitment because, so far, only 31 countries have a legal framework that substantially implements The Code.