Geneva, Switzerland; June 20-22, 2023
Last month, INFACT USA joined the many other global representatives of the Infant Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) and participated in the WHO/UNICEF first ever Code Congress.
More than 400 people came together at the WHO headquarters with a shared goal – to protect every mother and pregnant woman against predatory marketing practices of infant and young child feeding products, including infant formula. Throughout the three day congress, the same message was emphasized again and again: “The best way to support these women is to enact, monitor and enforce the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.”
The World Health Assembly (WHA) in 1981 adopted the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Forty-two years later, formula milk manufacturing companies continue to violate these established principles and place commercial interests before children’s and families’ health. Subsequent WHA resolutions have repeatedly called upon national governments to enact, monitor and enforce the provisions of the Code.
“Over 70% of Member States have enacted legislation that puts in place at least some of the provisions of the Code,” said Dr Francesco Branca, Director of Nutrition and Food Safety at WHO. “But industries are still expanding to push an ever-increasing range of formula milk products on families, using insidious tactics to access their networks and influence their choices. Parents have the right to impartial information on infant feeding, which is actively undermined by exploitative industry marketing.”
WHO and UNICEF notably excluded commercial companies from participation at the Code Congress, much to the annoyance of the International Special Dietary Foods Industries (ISDI), who issued this Statement just one day after the start of the Congress in Geneva.
Here in the United States, there is an incredible amount of work to be done to advance the WHO Code and its subsequent resolutions. To date, the U.S. is one of three countries in the world that did not sign onto the Code back in 1981. While that step may never come for the U.S., there are other options and avenues to implement protections against predatory marketing practices of these commercial baby-food product companies.