The British Medical Journal (BMJ) drops the baby formula industry

As one of the oldest and best-known peer-reviewed medical journals in the world, this decisions is a huge step forward and hopefully will have ripple effect on other medical associations, medical research institutes, health professional organisations, and health professionals.

Closely following the footsteps of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) for turning away sponsorship from formula companies, it was announced on 18th March, 2019 that the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and their sister publications will no longer publish advertisements from baby formula companies. It states, “BMJ has recently been reminded of the substantial harms caused by promotion of breastmilk substitutes and the biases introduced into research and clinical practice by industry influence. After decades of advertising breast milk substitutes to readers of The BMJ, we have decided it is time to stop.”

The decision came as a result of several months of internal debate, and decades of advertising breastmilk substitutes despite the fact that it violates the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, and that it acts against the fiduciary duty of health professionals and their associations to protect breastfeeding. This decision coincides with the growing awareness from the public on how industry continues to stretch and violate the International Code and relevant WHA resolutions. In the same announcement it also mentions how companies or associations that represent them devise internal instructions or manuals that are supposed to give effect to the International Code but are fraught with loopholes and gaps – let alone the fact that resolution WHA 34.22 stipulates that implementing the Code is only a minimum standard and governments are encouraged to go above that minimum standard. As the authority on medical knowledge and best practice standards, it is hoped that this decision by BMJ will help strengthen the urgency on the need to hold companies accountable to their aggressive and unethical marketing practices which are undermining the health, and in many case, the lives of infants and young children.