During the past ten months, we have reviewed each of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding regarding the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). The remaining months of 2020 will be devoted to the World Health Organization’s Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and other international documents that relate to The Code and their support of breastfeeding/chestfeeding.
In a press release dated 15 July 2019, The WHO Regional Office for Europe reported that “two new studies from WHO/Europe show that a high proportion of baby foods are incorrectly marketed as suitable for infants under the age of 6 months and that many of those foods contain inappropriately high levels of sugar,” (1).
WHO has developed a Nutrient Profile Model for children aged 6-36 months with guidelines for foods that are inappropriate to market to this group. WHO/Europe also developed a methodology for identifying commercial baby foods available in retail settings, nutritional labels on all products, and any potential claims on packaging. Using this methodology, data was collected from 516 stores in 4 major European cities between November 2017 and January 2018 on 7955 food and drink products marketed to infants and young children.
What did they find? “In all 4 cities, a substantial proportion of the products – ranging from 28% to 60% - were marketed as being suitable for infants under the age of 6 months” (1). Although European law permits this type of marketing, the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes does not allow it; neither do the WHO Guidance documents.
“In 3 of the cities, half or more of the products provided over 30% of the calories from total sugars. Around a third of the products listed sugar, concentrated fruit juice or other sweetening agents as an ingredient. These added flavours and sugars could affect the development of children’s taste preferences by increasing their liking for sweeter foods,” (1).
When this information is viewed with a global concern about toddler, child, adolescent, and adult obesity, the inappropriateness of this type of marketing becomes immediately evident. Not only is this unhealthy and unethical, it serves a role to decrease breastfeeding and decreases infant/child and maternal health, both immediate and long-term. For many of these companies violating The Code, the bottom dollar could well be the driving factor as apposed to infant health.
Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, RN, IBCLC, FILCA CHC
Professional Development Educator
1. Downloaded from https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding#tab=tab_1
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Last Updated: September 2018