21 May 2010: World Health Assembly calls for ending of inappropriate promotion of baby foods
World Health Assembly adopts two landmark Resolutions on the promotion of junk foods and baby foods
Palais des Nations, Geneva
Tonight, 29 years after the adoption of the landmark International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, the World Health Assembly adopted two new historic Resolutions which should have long lasting impact on child health.
First a Resolution proposed by Norway called for Member States to implement a set of recommendations which aim to reduce the impact on children of the marketing of ‘junk’ foods. They call on Governments to restrict marketing, including in ‘settings where children gather’ such as schools and to avoid conflicts of interest.
The ‘junk food code’ (1) as many refer to it – was closely followed by a Resolution on Infant and Young Child Nutrition, which also highlighted the impact of commercial promotion of baby foods on the health and survival of children, including the rise in childhood obesity, which is now known to be closely linked with artificial feeding, (2)
The baby food Resolution was debated over three days and tackled several controversial issues including, firstly the need to protect promote and support breastfeeding in emergencies and the need to minimise the risks of artificial by ensuring that any required breastmilk substitutes are purchased, distributed and used according to strict criteria. Member States were urged to follow the Operational Guidance on Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies for Emergency Relief Staff. (3)
Secondly – a policy change that has been resisted by the baby food industry for three decades – that there should be an ‘end to all forms of inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children and that nutrition and health claims should not be permitted on these foods’. The Resolution should stop the widespread use of claims about better IQ, better eyesight or protection from infection, which are so misleading to parents. The misleading advertising and labelling of baby foods also entices parents to use them before recommended age of 6 months.
The baby food industry was out in force to witness as Member State after Member State highlighted their continued irresponsible and inappropriate promotion. Thailand, expressed “deep concern over the ineffectiveness of voluntary measures’ and called for legislative measures to control the marketing.” The Delegate of Swaziland, Thulani Maphosa, highlighted his country’s concern about the unethical sponsorship of health workers by baby food companies and the need to address conflicts of interest.
Dr Elizabeth Mason, Director of Child and Adolescent Health said, ” We are very excited about this Resolution and the renewed commitment for the protection of breastfeeding and will continue its support to Member States on this very important issue.”
Other Resolutions, on the Millennium Development Goals and the Prevention Pneumonia, adopted today, recognized the core importance of breastfeeding in reducing child mortality. As the WHO Secretariat Report, stated: “Breastfeeding is today the single most effective preventive intervention for improving the survival and health of children”
Click here for the official version of the new Resolution
(1) Marketing of food and non-alcoholic beverages to children.
(2) Children who are breastfed are at reduced risk of obesity.77 Studies have found that the likelihood of obesity is 22% lower among children who were breastfed.78 The strongest effects were observed among adolescents, meaning that the obesity-reducing benefits of breastfeeding extend many years into a child’s life.Another study determined that the risk of becoming overweight was reduced by 4% for each month of breastfeeding.79 This effect plateaued after nine months of breastfeeding. SOLVING THE PROBLEM OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY WITHIN A GENERATION White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President May 2010 http://www.letsmove.gov/tfco_fullreport_may2010.pdf
(3) Operational Guidance on Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies for Emergency relief staff. V 2.1) (www.ennonline.net/resources/6
For more information contact:
Patti Rundall, OBE, Policy Director, Baby Milk Action [email protected] +44 776 523493
Annelies Allain, Director, International Code Documentation Centre [email protected] +41 76 216 9164
Dr Arun Gupta, Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India: [email protected] +41 76732 1073