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Take action to stop these violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. The people responsible have names and addresses - you can call them to account.

Read company responses received so far

 

NEW May 2007: Film from UNICEF Philippines - view it on-line

 

Help the Philippines stand up to company bullying

Background:

You can help to protect mothers and infants in the Philippines. Our partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) in the country and region are asking for help. We have organised an international petition of support. [Note: this is now closed].

New rules have been introduced in the Philippines to stop baby food company promotional practices which breach international standards. Though companies are required to abide by the World Health Assembly baby food marketing requirements independently of government action, monitoring shows systematic violations, making legislation essential (see the Breaking the Rules global monitoring reports).

Practices recently reported in the Philippines include targeting mothers with 'mothering classes', offering financial incentives and travel tours for health workers (one newspaper report refers to health centre staff members receiving 500 pesos for every 10 infants converted to use a particular brand of breastmilk substitutes - click here).

While labels have to contain a prominent message saying 'Breastmilk is best for babies up to two years old' under existing regulations, companies undermine this with prominent messages claiming the formula contains "Brain Building Blocks" (Nestlé, right) or is an "IQ system" (click for examples).

Community health workers (known as Barangay health workers), pediatricians and other health workers are provided with gifts such as t-shirts and jackets.

(Right, gifts of t-shirt and umbrella from Nestlé).

The regulations are the culmination of many years of campaigning by IBFAN nationally and internationally. Baby Milk Action has played its part. For example, exposing Nestlé staff posing as community health workers to promote formula and it targeting mothers with direct mail.

Gift t-shirt and umbrella

We have linked journalist to partners in the Philippines when they have contacted us for news of violations. This led to media reports, including a 2003 programme on German television, which can be viewed here.

The screen shot, right, is a reminder this is a matter of life and death.

German Panorama TV programme 2003

(Note for the media: this programme includes interviews recorded in English with health workers where they discuss the inducements companies such as Nestlé have offered and the impact of artificial feeding on infant health. We have contact with other television journalists with relevant footage).

The regulations are also a matter of profits for industry as they make it harder to undermine breastfeeding. The US Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of pharmaceutical companies are known to be attacking the regulations. The appeal for international help from our partners explains the situation.

Direct pressure is being exerted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the President of the Philippines to withdraw newly introduced regulations that protect breastfeeding and child health. In a leaked letter dated 11 August, the President of the US Chamber of Commerce, Mr Thomas Donohue, warned President Arroyo of “the risk to the reputation of the Philippines as a stable and viable destination for investment” if she did not “re-examine this regulatory decision”. He was referring to marketing restrictions on pharmaceutical and formula companies.

In July 2006, new Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) to restrict marketing practices used to boost formula sales were to come into force. These regulations, issued by the Philippines Department of Health must be seen in the light of the 1986 Executive Order 51 also known as the “Milk Code”, a law restricting promotion of infant foods, based on the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The “Milk Code” had become somewhat outdated in view of changing marketing practices and the IRR were a way to bridge the gap. They also reflected relevant World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions, endorsed by all countries including Philippines and the USA.

In protest over the IRR, the Pharmaceutical and Health Care Association of the Philippines (PHAP) representing three main US formula companies (Abbott Ross, Mead Johnson and Wyeth), Gerber (now owned by Swiss NOVARTIS) and other international pharmaceutical giants, took the Filipino government to court. In July, the Supreme Court declined PHAP’s application for a temporary restraining order to stop the IRR from coming into effect. Both initiation and duration of breastfeeding had dangerously declined and it was very necessary to halt commercial promotion for bottle feeding. Babies must come before business.

Within a month, however, on August 15, just 4 days after the letter by the American Chamber of Commerce, the Supreme Court, overturned its own decision by granting a temporary restraining order in favour of PHAP. While a court case is pending, no one should comment on its merits. The letter by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can therefore be seen as a direct threat to the independence of the judiciary. This should not happen anywhere, not in the Philippines or in any other country.

We wish to publicise and denounce the interference by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and express our support for the Implementing Rules and Regulations issued by the Department of Health. We also reaffirm that use of infant formula is indeed a potential hazard to infant health, and that promotion of such foods undermines breastfeeding, putting health at risk. WHO and UNICEF both agree that the risks of artificial feeding should be highlighted. [Innocenti Declaration 2005 on Infant and Young Child Feeding, 22 November 2005, Florence, Italy.]

We therefore call upon the business sector in the US and in Manila to exercise restraint and also call upon various arms of the Government of the Philippines – Judiciary, Executive and Legislature – to carry out their duties independently and without fear or favour so as to fulfil the right of the children of Philippines to the best attainable standard of health.

The above statement was presented by the Malaysia-based International Code Documentation Centre (ICDC) to participants at the “WHAT NEXT FORUM”, meeting in Sweden from 19 to 21 September, and received support from many eminent academics, doctors, well-known writers, journalists and development specialists.

Protecting Philippines' baby food marketing regulations from industry attack

In the Philippines the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding is seen as part of the global Stand up Against Poverty campaign. There are 5,000 organisations are backing this campaign in the Philippines.

Our IBFAN partner, ARUGAAN, launched a petition to protect the new regulations on the marketing of baby foods at a Stand up Against Poverty event on 16 October.

CLICK ON PICTURES FOR HI-RESOLUTION VERSION FOR PRINTING.

ALL PICTURES COPYRIGHT IBFAN/ARUGAAN 2006.

Mothers arriving.

Philippines petition

Signing the petition.

Philippines petition

Participants received information and advice on caring for their infants and on supporting and protecting breastfeeding.

Philippines petition

Men too must play their part.

Philippines petition

A good start, but many more signatures are wanted!

Philippines petition

You can sign a petition of international solidarity using the form below. [Note: this is now closed].

This petition will be used to gain publicity and will be presented to an appropriate official in the government in the Philippines by ARUGAAN at the appropriate time.

IBFAN has a long and successful history of stopping the industry from blocking laws or weakening or overturning them. Credit must go to our supporters for taking action, so please do sign and spread the word by emailing the URL http://www.babymilkaction.org/CEM/cemnov06.html to your friends.

After signing the petition you can send a message to the men - and all the Chief Executives behind this attack are men - who are trying to have the regulations struck down so they can continue to undermine breastfeeding to increase their own profits.

The petition is based on that of ARUGAAN:

We, the undersigned, wish to publicly declare to the Government, officials and campaigners in the Philippines that we support your efforts to:

  1. IMPLEMENT the revised Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Milk Code (EO51) that were issued by the Department of Health (DOH). The IRR is calling for stricter regulation of baby food companies in relation to the marketing and advertising of infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes and baby foods;

  2. OPPOSE the legal challenge to the IRR by the Pharmaceuticals Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) and the pressure from the US Chamber to Commerce for political interference in the court case; and

  3. PROMOTE and PROTECT the interest and well being of Filipino infants in line with the World Health Organisation recommendation that the optimum way to feed a child is exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life followed by the introduction of nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.

The petition is now closed and all names and messages have been forwarded to campaigners in the Philippines. This is because the deadline for submissions to the Supreme Court is upon us.


Tell baby food companies not to oppose the Philippines government's moves to protect infants

Baby food companies should abide by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly independently of whether the government has introduced legislation or not. It is a requirement of Article 11.3 of the Code.

Therefore, there is no justifiable reason for the industry to oppose the regulations recently introduced in the Philippines to update and improve its 1986 'Milk Code'.

However, as explained above pharmaceutical companies involved in the baby food business have brought a case against the regulations in the courts. They are: Abbott Ross, Mead Johnson, Wyeth and Gerber (part of Novartis). The US Chamber of Commerce is pressuring the Government to interfere in the court case to benefit US companies. Nestlé is not a party to the court case, but has a long history of undermining legislation and of violating the Code and Resolutions in the Philippines and elsewhere.

Nestlé also uses its influence to try to intimidate the media and we exposed in 1997 how it threatened to remove advertising from a television station that ran a programme about baby food marketing violations.

Suggested letter. You can cut and paste the following text into an email, on-line comment form or letter and modify it as you wish. Please send us a copy of correspondence if possible.

Contact details follow the suggested message:

As you know manufacturers of baby foods your should abide by the provisions of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly.

I am very concerned to learn that the US Chamber of Commerce and certain pharmaceutical companies have embarked on a campaign to try to strike down the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for the marketing of baby foods introduced by the Philippines Department of Health in July 2006.

I ask that your company publicly distance itself from these attacks and instead gives an undertaking to fully support and abide by the IRR and to call on the rest of the industry to do the same.

I also ask that you act immediately to review your baby food marketing practices and end any and all violations of the IRR and the International Code and Resolutions immediately.

Please confirm that you will take this action.

Contact details

  • ABBOTT: Miles D. White, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Abbott Laboratories, 100 Abbott Park Road, Abbott Park, Illinois 60064-3500, USA. Fax: +1 847 938 1342.

    Visit the Abbott contact page to send the text electronically. If the link dies, find the page on the main Abbott site.

  • WYETH: Robert Essner, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer, Wyeth, 5 Giralda Farms, Madison, NJ 07940, USA.

    Visit the Wyeth UK contact page to send the text electronically. If the link dies, find the page on the main Wyeth UK site.

    UPDATE: See the Wyeth-specific campaign on the June 2007 action sheet.

  • NESTLÉ: Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Nestlé S.A., Avenue Nestlé 55, 1800 Vevey, Switzerland. Fax: +41 21 924 4800.

    Visit the Nestlé contact page to send the text electronically. If the link dies, find the page on the main Nestlé site.

  • US CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: You can send a similar letter to the US Chamber of Commerce asking it to stop pressuring for political interference in the court case.

    Mr Thomas Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20062-2000. USA.

  • GERBER. Note, the owner of Gerber, Novartis, has recently been admitted to the FTSE4Good stock market listing after giving undertakings to abide by the International Code and Resolutions and to bring its activities into line. You may wish to add the following to the end of your message to Gerber and send it to:

    Daniel Vasella, Chairman and Chief Executive, Novartis International, AG CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland. Fax: +41 61 324 80 01. If you wish to submit a comment on-line this is limited to 500 characters, so you could use the text below as it stands.

I welcome the news that Novartis/Gerber has given undertakings to FTSE4Good ethical investment listing that it supports the International Code and Resolutions.

However, this stated commitment is undermined by the action Novartis is taking in the Philippines. If Novartis does not withdraw from the legal action it will suggest your promises to FTSE4Good have no practical worth.


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