Monday, November 14, 2011

China may ban all formula advertisement... When will the US do the same?

Four days ago the news reported that China is considering putting a ban on formula companies and how they advertise. They are thinking of banning all advertisements for formula marketed to babies 6 months and under. There is a lot of research that states that mothers are highly influenced by such advertisements, including the hospital bags given upon discharge, thus discontinuing exclusive breastfeeding. China has reported an increase on sales of stage 1 powdered formula from 5.68 billion in 2006 to 14.4 billion in 2010. That's a massive climb and the pharmaceutical companies are taking full advantage.
The European Union has had a ban on formula advertisements marketed to infants under the age of one since 1995. Since then the National Childbirth Trust of England and UNICEF have seen a rise in advertisements of follow-on formula (formula for after 1 year of age). Formula companies have since changed the packaging of follow-on formula to look similar to that of stage 1 and 2 formula thus preying on mothers and infants as 60% of new mothers report seeing formula advertisements in the past year. What is also alarming is that mother's are getting confused with the differences in the formula and feeding follow-on formula, which has a higher mineral content, at too young of age. The NCT and UNICEF are now working towards banning all formula advertisements throughout the EU.
"A lack of exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life contributes to more than a million avoidable child deaths globally each year, the World Health Organization, which recommends exclusive breastfeeding for infants, said in July."

The WHO and UNICEF formed The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk substitutes in 1981. I have included the lengthy code below but I want to highlight this:

4.2 Informational and educational materials, whether written, audio, or visual,
dealing with the feeding of infants and intended to reach pregnant women and
mothers of infants and young children, should include clear information on all the
following points: (a) the benefits and superiority of breast-feeding; (b) maternal
nutrition, and the preparation for and maintenance of breast-feeding; (c) the negative
effect on breast-feeding of introducing partial bottle-feeding; (d) the difficulty of
reversing the decision not to breast-feed; and (e) where needed, the proper use of
infant formula, whether manufactured industrially or home-prepared. When such
materials contain information about the use of infant formula, they should include the
social and financial implications of its use; the health hazards of inappropriate foods
or feeding methods; and, in particular, the health hazards of unnecessary or improper
use of infant formula and other breast-milk substitutes. Such materials should not use
any pictures or text which may idealize the use of breast-milk substitutes.
In 1994, the United States signed onto the code, but I believe we are still seeing inappropriate advertising and unfortunately, the code is not legally binding. Now, I know that many of you have seen formula advertised here in the US and elsewhere, can you tell me that the advertisements follow the code? A television commercial would have to be at least five minutes long to cover just some of the information required above. Appalling if you ask me.
"The World Health Organization said a study has found that Filipino mothers who have been influenced by advertisements or their doctors to use infant formula are two to four times more likely to feed their babies with those products." A study released November 3, 2011
Did you receive a hospital bag at the hospital when you and your baby were discharged? Do you know what is in those bags? Formula samples and coupons! Guess who supplies the hospitals with the bags? The formula to the hospitals! Pharmaceutical companies make up 80% of baby formula sold  in the US and take advantage of the fact that many women trust that the hospital and doctors know best. The hospital is merely giving them away without a second thought as it's all about the bottom line. Each bag is said to cost the formula company $7, but a year of formula feeding costs $2000 in which a significant portion the families pay for such marketing. As a result, families are paying $700 per year for brand name formula when compared to store brands. Many organisations such as the WHO, UNICEF, CDC, AAP,  and the 200 Surgeon General condemned the use of such hospital bags. So why are hospitals still handing them out?
Here lies room for massive reformation and revolution. Get on board.

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