IBFAN, pioneer in monitoring marketing practices
of baby food companies, highlights challenges
during launch of the first WHO/UNICEF/IBFAN
joint global report

The first WHO/UNICEF/IBFAN joint global report – Marketing of breastmilk substitutes: National implementation of the International Code Status Report 2016, for which IBFAN-ICDC provided technical support, was launched on 9 May at the Geneva Press Club. The report presents the legal status of the Code in WHO Member States including information on the few national efforts to monitor and enforce the Code through formal mechanisms.

The report reveals an increase of countries with some form of legal measures but pointed out that few governments have implemented the Code comprehensively.

Mike Brady of Baby Milk Action represented ICDC and IBFAN. In his speech, he highlighted that companies will relentlessly defend their profits and political will is needed for more effective Code implementation, monitoring and enforcement. “Companies grow sales through aggressive marketing. Where they cannot get away with this, such as India, sales remain static… Regulations cannot just exist on paper; they have to be monitored and enforced to be effective”, Mike Brady said, reminding audience that IBFAN started its monitoring activities even before the adoption of the Code by WHA in 1981.

The importance of the Code in preserving adequate access to accurate and unbiased information on infant and young child feeding was also highlighted by Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development.  “It is encouraging to see more countries pass laws to protect and promote breastfeeding, but there are still far too many places where mothers are inundated with incorrect and biased information through advertising and unsubstantiated health claims.”

According to the report, the United States, Australia and New Zealand have no legal measures at all.  Southeast Asia has the highest proportion of countries with comprehensive legislation in line with the Code at 36%, followed by Africa at 30%. Europe has the lowest rate, at 6%. The overall picture reflects that developing countries are ahead of their first world business-friendly counterparts where most manufacturing companies are based.

It was also announced during the launch that WHO and UNICEF have recently established a Global Network for Monitoring and Support for Implementation of the Code (NetCode) to help strengthen the capacity of countries to monitor and effectively enforce laws based on the Code and relevant WHA resolutions..