Pioneer of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes

Published in December 2018 in the Journal of Human Lactation, Annelies Allain: Pioneer of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is an in-depth interview conducted by Maryse Arendt that covers not only the history of the International Baby Food Action Network (the “world’s first network”) and the International Code, but also how this battle against baby food corporations has never stopped – and public health and breastfeeding advocates continue to fight an old battle in the new world.


Director of IBFAN-ICDC Annelies Allain has been at the forefront of global efforts to support and promote breastfeeding for more than 30 years. Her accomplishments continue to affect all of us who work with breastfeeding families. Born in the Netherlands in 1945, Annelies Allain-van Elk received a scholarship and completed a BA from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, USA. Back in Europe, she obtained a BA in French language and literature (University of Geneva, Switzerland) as well as a translator’s diploma. After 4 years working in West Africa and visits to South America, she returned to Geneva to obtain an MA in development studies. She is fluent in English, French, and Dutch and has working knowledge of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and German. Ms. Allain was a co-founder of IBFAN (1979) and the coordinator of IBFAN Europe (1980-1984). In 1984, she moved to Penang, Malaysia, and IBFAN work soon took over as a full-time job. She was instrumental in developing the Code Documentation Centre (1985) and by 1991 it became a foundation (ICDC) registered in the Netherlands.

Subsequently, the Centre has trained over 2,000 officials from 148 countries about the International Code, making it the world’s top International Code implementation institution. Among her many other education and advocacy activities, Ms. Allain was a co-founder of WABA (1990) and for many years has been a consultant with UNICEF and WHO’s Western Pacific Regional Office on International Code implementation and monitoring. In this interview she provides a firsthand account of how most of the major global breastfeeding protection efforts influencing our current situation came into being.