WHO Slams Big Formula Milk Companies and Their Politics - medtigo



WHO Slams Big Formula Milk Companies and Their Politics

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In a report published on last week, a prominent World Health Organization (WHO) scientist argued that breastfeeding women require immediate assistance and urged a strong crackdown on infant formula companies’ unethical marketing practices.  

Nigel Rollins, one of the authors of a series on the $55 billion-a-year industry and their marketing “playbooks,” published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet, said, “This new research highlights the vast economic and political power of the big formula milk companies, as well as serious public policy failures that prevent millions of women from breastfeeding their children.”  

“Actions are required across all sectors of society to better enable moms to breastfeed for as long as they choose, in addition to measures to end exploitative formula milk marketing for good,” he added. The three-paper series suggests a substantial increase in breastfeeding support within healthcare and social protection systems, as well as the provision of adequate paid maternity leave.  

Approximately 650 million women lack proper maternity protections, according to the research. The series analyzes how formula marketing methods undermine breastfeeding and target parents, health professionals, and politicians, as well as how feeding patterns, women’s rights, and health outcomes are influenced by power inequalities and economic systems.  

The authors wrote, “Breastfeeding is not the unique duty of women and requires collective societal policies that incorporate gender disparities.” Indeed, evaluations published between 2016 and 2021 and country-specific case studies indicate that breastfeeding behaviors can be swiftly altered with multilevel and multicomponent interventions.  

The World Health Assembly has already addressed the decades-long issue of infant formula manufacturers’ questionable marketing methods. In 1981, Nestle developed the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in response to an investigation into its 1970s-era targeted marketing in low- and middle-income nations.  

According to the new series, deceptive marketing claims and deliberate lobbying by the dairy and infant formula milk industries contribute to the difficulties faced by parents. According to the papers, statements that formula reduces fussiness, can aid with colic, and prolongs overnight sleep actually increase parental anxiety.  

Linda Richter, co-author of the series and a professor at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, stated that the formula milk industry utilizes “bad science” to claim, with little proof, that their products are “solutions to common baby health and developmental difficulties.” She stated that this marketing strategy “obviously breaches the 1981 Code, which states that labels shall not idealize the employment of a formula to increase product sales.”  


WHO suggests exclusive breastfeeding for a minimum of six months. The practice has numerous benefits for infants and young children, including a reduction in the risk of infection and decreased incidence of obesity and chronic disorders later in life.  

However, less than half of newborns worldwide are breastfed within the first hour of life. According to WHO guidelines, less than half of newborns are breastfed. This series demonstrates how the industry’s marketing leverages the lack of support for the practice from governments and society.  

The authors discovered that the company also exploits gender politics to sell its products, framing breastfeeding advocacy as a “moralistic judgment” and milk formula as a “easy and powerful solution” for working women.  

The series drew attention to the impact of the milk formula industry on national political decisions and asserted that the industry also interferes with international regulatory processes. For example, the dairy and formula milk industries have built a network of unaccountable trade organisations that fight against policies that preserve breastfeeding or regulate the quality of infant formula.  

In response to these pressures on parents, the authors of the series suggested a number of suggestions, including the need for larger activities across workplaces, hospitals, governments, and communities to successfully support women who wish to breastfeed. In addition, they demanded legal recognition of the role of unpaid care work by women to national progress.  

Co-author of the series Rafael Pérez-Escamilla of the Yale School of Public Health emphasized additional essential stages. “Given the great benefits of breastfeeding to their families and national development, women who intend to breastfeed must receive far more help in order to achieve their breastfeeding goals,” he stated.  

“Important protections include a significant expansion of breastfeeding training for health professionals, as well as paid maternity leave and other safeguards.” 



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