Breaking News – Code regression in Fiji

In a bizarre episode that shows no country can afford to rest on its laurels after successful Code implementation, Fiji’s labelling provisions vanished.

Fiji amended their Food Safety Regulations on 23 June 2016 that has the effect of deleting all labelling provisions in Part IV of its Marketing Controls (Foods for Infants and Young Children) Regulations 2010.

The 2016 Regulations were signed off at the instruction of the country’s Prime Minister without adequate consultation with the Ministry of Health.

Fiji was the first country in the Pacific to fully implement the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes with the adoption of the 2010 Marketing Controls Regulations and despite protests from manufacturers and distributors, was successful in getting them to comply with strict labelling requirements.

With the amendment, the labelling requirements for infant formula have been reduced to just a few vague provisions (Standard on Foods for Infants and Other Vulnerable Populations). Other products that are covered by Marketing Controls (Foods for Infants and Young Children) Regulations 2010 such as follow-up formula, growing up milks, complementary foods and feeding appliances are left with no labelling guidelines or restrictions.

ICDC thinks that the amendment will undermine protection, promotion and support for breastfeeding in Fiji. ICDC has sent a letter to urge the Prime Minister of Fiji to review the 2016 Regulations. Meanwhile, ICDC has also been engaging with national agencies, WHO and UNICEF country offices to obtain more clarity on this unfortunate development.

News obtained from Fiji revealed that under the country’s new supplementary budget, the Government made foods specially prepared for infants duty free under the 2016-2017 Budget. Allegedly the Regulations were changed to complement this tariff reduction and to allow for more infant formula to be brought into Fiji, even though the exclusive breastfeeding rate is at 40% only.

To ICDC, it looks like the country has thrown the baby out with the bath water. It is a sad day for breastfeeding in Fiji.