On 28th April The Lancet published  seven of the many responses   to the comment by WHO staff  about the new funding policy of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).  The letters are all worth reading.  For example, Declan O Brien says that he has no ‘competing interests’   but declares that he is from the British Specialist Nutrition Association (BSNA).  Does everyone realise that this is the baby food industry? Mr OBrien dismisses the WHA Guidance on Ending Inappropriate Marketing of foods for Infants and Young Children which, among other things,  reiterates and reinforces the COI safeguards in previous WHA Resolutions (1996, 2005 and 2012). 

We were very pleased that a few days before, on Wednesday 26th April, the RCPCH posted a new statement  on the results of its Due Diligence process: “The evidence provided to date has not given sufficient assurance to enable the RCPCH Board of Trustees Due Diligence sub-group to conclude that Danone, Abbott, Nestle and Mead Johnson are meeting the criteria above.  Therefore these companies will not be able to have a stand at the 2017 RCPCH Annual Conference.”

We share the concerns of the sponsors of the original RCPCH motion (calling for an end to baby food industry funding) who commented : “We are pleased to see a temporary halt of funding to specified breastmilk substitute manufacturers and ask that the College permanently excludes all such companies as potential sponsors  as soon as possible.” http://www.rcpch.ac.uk/news/rcpch-and-commercial-organisations

Here are the seven letters published in the Lancet:
Prof Neena Modi  (President of the RCPCH)
Stewart Forsyth (Industry funded)
Declan O’Brien (Baby Food Industry)

Here is the full text of the RCPCH statement:

RCPCH and commercial organisations

 As you will be aware, following an RCPCH membership consultation, Council decided that a formal due diligence process would be followed before accepting funding for any RCPCH activity from any commercial organisation. Due diligence is defined by the Charity Commission as “the range of practical steps that need to be taken by trustees so that they are reasonably assured of the provenance of the funds given to the charity; confident that they know the people and organisations the charity works with; and able to identify and manage associated risks.”

What are the reasonable assurances the RCPCH requires before accepting funding from commercial organisations?

RCPCH requires that organisations:

  1. Meet relevant Codes of Practice (e.g. ABPI Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry; the World Health Organisation International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes), or show demonstrable commitment to working towards meeting it (e.g. commissioning an independent report into compliance with the relevant Code, and a stated commitment to address gaps identified)
  2. Demonstrate willingness to share information on breaches in the UK, and internationally, of the relevant Code/s, any past or ongoing criminal investigations or prosecutions for illegal activity, and remediating actions taken
  3. Are able to provide a reasonable explanation should any inconsistencies be identified between information provided by them and information obtained by the RCPCH
  4. Provide evidence of robust governance by the parent company of national businesses within the group
  5. Ensure sign-off of “Due Diligence” returns to RCPCH by an international-level Senior Director

What was the result of the process?

The evidence provided to date has not given sufficient assurance to enable the RCPCH Board of Trustees Due Diligence sub-group to conclude that Danone, Abbott, Nestle and Mead Johnson are meeting the criteria above.  Therefore these companies will not be able to have a stand at the 2017 RCPCH Annual Conference.

What does it mean for current arrangements?

No current agreements with companies will be stopped in the next 6 month period (up October 2017).  However, no new agreements should be entered into by or on behalf of the RCPCH.

What does it mean for future arrangements?

No new agreements with commercial organisations will be entered into without going through the RCPCH Due Diligence process.

What happens next?

RCPCH will engage with the companies listed above over the next 6 months to try and reach an acceptable position. The companies will be welcome to reapply, and the RCPCH Board of Trustees Due Diligence sub-group will apply the same criteria before deciding whether or not to accept funding.

The implementation of this process is an important milestone in the history and development of the RCPCH and will ultimately lead to stronger collaborations with industry, and with greater benefit to infants, children, and young people. If you have questions about this process, please contact Graham Sleight at graham.sleight@rcpch.ac.uk.

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