Hong Kong should delay no more on legislation to protect babies

When the Hong Kong Code of Marketing of Formula Milk and Related Products and Foods for Infants and Young Children (HK Code) was by the Department of Health in Hong Kong in June 2017, ICDC pointed out its inherent weakness.  The HK Code is voluntary by nature and despite its extensive scope, it is unenforceable. There are no sanctions for non-compliance.

Prompted by the recent Lactalis formula milk recall (1) in 83 countries, an open letter (2) published in the South China Morning Post reveals that even though the Hong Kong Code includes provisions requiring labels on infant formula for babies under six months to carry the warning about possible contamination and specific preparation instructions, few infant formulas sold in Hong Kong comply with this requirement. Apart from that, it is found that formula companies are giving gifts and using cross branding tactics to promote products. The use of promotional health claims is widespread. ICDC’s prediction that compliance with the Hong Kong Code would depend largely on the goodwill of manufacturers and distributors has unfortunately been proven right, and as Patricia Ip, Vice-Chairperson of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Hong Kong Association urges in her letter, the government needs to progress to legislation where compliance is mandatory.