Stop unethical infant formula research on babies! IBFAN is calling for an immediate halt to a new study funded by the Gates Foundation and led by researchers from the University of California. The study is randomly allocating infant formula to low-birth-weight babies in Uganda and Guinea-Bissau on the pretext that this might prevent wasting and stunting.

This unethical study is being conducted in Africa where annually over 330,000 babies die as a result of inappropriate feeding and brings the #BlackLivesMatter movement to the forefront. IBFAN is appalled and fearful that Abbott, an American pharmaceutical corporation operating in 160 countries may use the findings to expand the formula market in low resources countries. Abbott is currently at the centre of a media storm in the USA because of contamination of its powdered formula and is facing a lawsuit over the death of a child and failing to adequately warn of risks of formula feeding. It might be wary of running this study at home.

Although the researchers claim to follow ethical standards the study ignores the Declaration of Helsinki that calls for particular care in vulnerable populations. By conducting this study amongst health illiterate populations the researchers have turned the concept of “informed consent” on its head. To randomly add formula to breastfed babies only to promote weight and growth at the expense of all the other major health protection outcomes of exclusive breastfeeding cannot be justified. 

Among the many serious risks associated with formula feeding of premature and low birth weight babies are life threatening Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) and formula’s negative impact on the microbiome. (Abbott is also facing lawsuits over the deaths of children from NEC and its failure to adequately warn of risks of formula feeding.) Exclusive breastfeeding from the mother, or breastmilk from wet-nurse or donated, is now universally recommended. A recent review of formula trials found an almost universal lack of transparency, evidence of selective reporting between and within trials, increasing use of formula in children at a sensitive period of development, lack of scientific rigour and published outcomes that were biased by selective reporting.

Meanwhile, the global market for baby foods is now worth  $55 billion a year and is fuelled not only by Abbott but by other powerful corporations such as Nestlé and Danone who all systematically violate World Health Assembly marketing standards.

Please sign this petition and help end all unethical formula research on babies, especially those that have the underlying motive of expanding markets for foods and ultra processed products for children.  For more information follow this link.