Chile’s Undersecretary of Health ordered to repay cost for milk formula

On 14 October 2017, the newspaper El Mercurio reported that Chile’s Comptroller’s Office has ordered the Undersecretary of Health, Jaime Burrows, to repay the expense on purchasing excessive milk formula (“starter formula”) for a pilot programme that distributes starter formula. According to a report from the Comptroller’s Office, 96,000 cans of starter formula were purchased in 2015 when only 9,000 were needed. The purchase resulted in an expense of 422,402,400 Chilean Pesos (approximately USD 680 thousand), and failure to repay may result in a court case. “We acquired the adequate and programmed number of starter formula cans to make them available to the most vulnerable population included in the pilot project for this new program”, the Ministry of Health’s responded.

Novofarma Service S.A., the company representing Danone, was awarded the contract to supply Nutrilon Premium 1 milk, a premium brand, to health facilities. According to the Ministry of Health, the plan for distributing starter formula is to provide the second best alternative if support for breastfeeding fails. However, the plan overlooks that in many cases, when breastfeeding is not successful, it is because mothers lack proper support. There are concerns that the new starter formula distribution programme might expand to a much larger scale, thus displacing breastfeeding – contradicting the Ministry of Health’s claimed intention to work toward increasing the prevalence of breastfeeding. Apart from the “spillover” effect that can seriously undermine breastfeeding and impact on the health of Chile’s babies, the excessive purchase also raises concerns about whether or not supplies are procured, distributed and used according to strict criteria as outlined in the International Code for the purpose of protecting breastfeeding.



Despite scrutiny from the Comptroller, El Mercurio reported on 18 October 2017, that the Ministry of Health has gone ahead to purchase another 96 tons of start-up formula (equivalent to 120, 000 cans) from Novofarma for a total of 685 million pesos. The products will be delivered between December 2017 and November 2018 for an expansion of a pilot plan initiated in La Araucanía and in the western zone of the Metropolitan Region.

The Ministry of Health denied breastfeeding rates suffered in places where the formula products were distributed. It should also be noted that 23, 000 cans of the formula purchased expired during the last programme period…