Many factors influence breastfeeding, including the promotion and marketing of breast milk substitutes (i.e. formula).
What is the WHO Code?
The International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes, also known as the WHO Code, was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 to protect the health of women and children by providing public health recommendations to regulate the marketing of breastmilk substitutes.
The Code aims to “contribute to the provision of the safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breastmilk substitutes, when these are necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.” – World Health Organization
“The Code applies to the marketing, and practices related thereto, of the following products: breastmilk substitutes, including infant formula; other milk products, foods and beverages, including bottle-fed complimentary foods, when marketed or otherwise represented to be suitable, with or without modification, for use as a partial or total replacement of breastmilk; feeding bottles and teats. It also applies to their quality and availability, and to information concerning their use.” – World Health Organization
Unfortunately, the WHO Code is not legally binding in the U.S., but with advocacy efforts and your help, there is much that can be done to encourage the U.S. government to develop policies and laws that support The Code.
To download the International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes click here.
Who Monitors the WHO Code?
The International Baby Food Action Network – IBFAN aims to improve the health and well-being of babies and young children, their mothers and their families through the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding and optimal infant feeding practices. IBFAN works for universal and full implementation of the International Code and Resolutions.
National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy – The National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy (NABA) is dedicated to the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding as an integral part of a vision of wellness for the United States of America. It was formed to be an advocate for breastfeeding at the state and federal levels. NABA monitors the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in the US and publishes the country report on Code violations.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Regulates advertising in the U.S.
How Can You Help?
1. Report unethical formula marketing tactics to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
2. Ask your legislators to file bills that place restrictions on false and misleading infant formula advertising.
3. Learn more about the WHO Code! Read this blog entry from Mommy News and Views Breastfeeding and Parenting Blog to understand why the WHO Code is important.
NABA (the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy) and the Cornucopia Institute have filed a joint petition to the FTC regarding the false and misleading advertising of DHA in infant formula. You can read about this in a publication entitled “Replacing Mother-Imitating Human Breastmilk in the Laboratory” which is available at www.cornucopia.org.
The Food and Drug Administration is planning on conducting a study of how mothers interpret formula advertising. You can read about this study and comment on it through the Federal Register by clicking here. If you have heard mothers that you work with talk about infant formula being as close to breastmilk or in any way equivalent to human milk, it is important that you provide this information to the FDA.
Formula Recalls- NABA provides a list of recalls of infant feeding products
“Still Selling Out Mothers and Babies: Marketing of Breat Milk Substitutes in the USA” – The updated US Country report, published in 2007 for the 25th anniversary of the Code, demonstrates continued Code violations
Publications on Infant Formula Issues- NABA’s website provides a comprehensive list of resources related to infant formula issues and advocacy