28 Oct Conflict of Interest – The Breastfeeding Friendly Country Index Project
We anticipate that in the near future, many (mothers, health workers, and public health advocates, etc.) will be approached by the Breastfeeding Friendly Country Index Project, developed by The Yale School of Public Health in partnership with the Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation of Zug, Switzerland. ICDC would like to highlight that the sponsoring Foundation is also the owner of Medela, a breast pump manufacturer and a violator of the International Code.
When approached by the Project, please:
1. INFORM your regional office and IBFAN-ICDC, so we can track the reach of the Index Project.
2. TAKE A STAND. IBFAN-ICDC encourages its colleagues and allies to refrain from participating in projects that are associated with or sponsored by Code violators.
3. ALERT researchers or staff of this Project about its Medela connection, and that it would create conflicts of interest for those who engage with it.
The primary purpose of the Breastfeeding Friendly Country Index Project is to monitor the effectiveness of breastfeeding protection, promotion, and support programmes around the world. It focuses on exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months ONLY, and we find that problematic. It disregards continued breastfeeding (until two years or beyond), and thus joins the rhetoric of some of the big babyfood companies who pretend that the Code only covers infant formula: 0 to 6 months. We also note that the Foundation is sponsoring a professorship for human lactation research at Zurich University. This increases our concern on the risk of conflicts of interest in the research area. Neither announcement on the Yale partnership or the Zurich professorship mentions the Larsson-Rosenquist Family’s vested interest in Medela.
The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding clearly states (paragraph 44) that the role of manufacturers should be limited to ensuring full compliance with the Code (and WHA resolutions), and to meeting quality, safety and labelling standards of Codex Alimentarius. The 1996 WHA resolution 49.15 calls upon governments to ensure that “financial support for professionals working in infant and young child health does not create conflicts of interest”; and the 2005 WHA resolution 58.32 urges “to ensure that financial support and other incentives for programmes and health professionals working in infant and young child health do not create conflicts of interest”.