Health over profits

“The only legitimate way to prevent commercial influence is to refuse commercial funding.” — Kathleen C Parry, Catherine Sullivan, Alison M Stuebe; Health professional associations and industry funding—reply from Parry et al

It was almost a year ago that I wrote about my ethical conundrum over ice cream and how it relates to infant feeding. It led me to become involved with Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert’s 2016 WHO Code Day of Action. This year on May 18, Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert is teaming up with  Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, 1,000 Days, and Best for Babes to host a Day of Action to Protect Parents and Babies.

Health Over Profits

Because families deserve access to commercial-free infant feeding information so that they can make informed decisions, the organizations are asking us to take action.

Here are their suggestions on how to take part:

  1. Take photos or videos holding a homemade sign. “Protect Parents and Babies – Keep Marketing out of Healthcare Facilities,” “Infant Health over Corporate Wealth!” or

“Follow the Code” are suggestions. Include your kids and show it if you’re expecting!

  1. Post your photos on the event page.

(By posting photos to this page, you agree to let us publish elsewhere, including company’s pages).

  1. Post photos/videos/personal messages to the pages of Code violators:

Similac US (Abbott’s brand)

Enfamil (Mead Johnson’s brand)

Nestlé (owner of Gerber Good Start)

The Honest Company

Where to share:

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

We will share your event page posts to the company pages throughout the day.

Last year, activists shared over 100 photos as part of the event.

WHO, UNICEF and IBFAN also presented the first joint global report on the status of the Code in 194 countries last year. The report presents the legal status of the Code, including to what extent Code provisions have been incorporated in national legal measures, and provides information on the efforts made by countries to monitor and enforce the Code through the establishment of formal mechanisms. Find it here.

As the IBFAN organization responsible for monitoring the Code in the U.S., the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy (NABA) is calling on us to help in reporting incidences of Code violations. Help with Code monitoring here.

The Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) enacted The Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (IMS) in 1992 which includes several clauses regarding the promotion of milk substitutes, sponsorship, labeling, etc. Non-compliance is a criminal offense. This organization’s accomplishments battling predatory marketing of infant formula companies are something to aspire to!

If you’re looking for Code- compliant companies to support, Best for Babes established The C.A.R.E. Code Alliance which awards companies for upholding the Code.

The World Health Organization recently released The International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes – 2017 Update: Frequently asked questions. USBC points out that the purpose of this booklet is to provide easy-to-read detailed information on specific questions related to the Code, including what products are covered by the Code, infant formula labeling, and information about implementation and monitoring. It is intended for policy-makers, health workers and others concerned with the Code, as well as the general public.

Public Citizen created a petition telling infant formula makers to stop using hospitals as marketing tools. Sign it here. Last year, I wrote to pediatric clinics in my area suggesting they adopt breastfeeding-friendly policies.

This year, I’m writing to one of my favorite television networks after I noticed sponsorship from a formula company.  I’ve included it below should you have any interest in using it as a template for your own letter-sending.

May 3, 2017

Public Broadcasting Service

2100 Crystal Drive

Arlington, VA 22202

To Whom it may concern:

I am writing to express my concern with your sponsorship from Enfamil. Accepting funding from a company that preys on the health of mothers and babies interferes with the quality of your programming and dilutes the integrity of your network.

Please allow me to inform you about the predatory marketing of formula companies like Enfamil and its detrimental effects.

Formula companies have a knack for undermining women’s efforts to breastfeed (1), a behavior essential to public health (2). For decades, [formula] “companies raked in profits, and babies died in droves (3),” until international outrage led the World Health Organization to pass the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes in 1981 to regulate predatory marketing tactics by infant formula companies (4). Still, the United States is one of very few countries to uphold the Code (5).

Highly regarded health organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) state that families should receive noncommercial, accurate and unbiased information to make informed decisions about how to feed their infants and children (6). 

By running Enfamil’s advertisements, specifically their Enfagrow follow-on formula, you are feeding corporate greed (7) while simultaneously allowing them to heavily influence and encourage families to purchase products that offer no additional value to a balanced diet (8).

Surely a generation of PBS viewers fed on what is essentially powdered bovine hormonal secretion and corn syrup solids won’t enjoy a healthy future. With young children of my own who are delighted by your programming on PBS Kids, I am deeply disappointed to see funding by such a heinous company and hope you’ll consider cutting ties with their mission.

Sincerely,
Jess Fedenia

(1)  Seals Allers, Kimberly . The Big Let Down . New York : St. Martin’s Press, 2017.

(2)  “A Call to Action on Breastfeeding: A Fundamental Public Health Issue.” American Public Health Association . 06 Nov. 2007. <https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2014/07/29/13/23/a-call-to-action-on-breastfeeding-a-fundamental-public-health-issue>.

(3)  Solomon, Stephen. “THE CONTROVERSY OVER INFANT FORMULA.” The New York Times . 6 Dec. 1981. <http://www.nytimes.com/1981/12/06/magazine/the-controversy-over-infant-formula.html?pagewanted=all>.

(4)   Stuebe, Alison, MD, MSc. ” Physicians blogging about breastfeeding It’s time to disarm the formula industry.” Breastfeeding Medicine . 20 May 2016. <https://bfmed.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/its-time-to-disarm-the-formula-industry/>.

(5) “Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes: National Implementation of the International Code Status Report 2016.” World Health Organization .<http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/206009/1/WHO_NMH_NHD_16.1_eng.pdf>.

(6)  Optimizing support for breastfeeding as part of obstetric practice. Committee Opinion No. 658. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2016;127:e86–92.

(7) Baumslag, Naomi, MD,MPH. “Tricks of the Infant Food Industry.” World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action .<http://waba.org.my/news/tricks.htm>.

(8) “’Growing-up’ formula: No additional value to a balanced diet, says EFSA.” European Food Safety Authority. 25 Oct. 2013. <http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/131025>.

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