WHO Executive Board Meeting,

3 February 2020 – 8 February 2020,  WHO Headquarters, Geneva   Event website


IBFAN made interventions on Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nurition (Agenda Item 18 see Friday pm webcast move to 2.48), Food Safety (Agenda Item 19) and WHO Reform/Non State Actors in WHO’s Governing bodies (Agenda item 22.1, Saturday Morning Webcast move to 2.12  )


Biennial reporting on the International Code under threat

2020 is a reporting year for Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN), and an opportunity to adopt a new Resolution or Decision.  We know that some Member States – and of course the baby food industry – would rather that, after nearly 40 years, our issue is taken off WHO’s agenda entirely. So we were alarmed to see the proposed Draft Decision in the Director General’s report calling for reporting to end  in 2026.  Alongside environmental and conflict threats, new and old forms of marketing continue to threaten infant and  young child health and survival.  For very good reasons the  International Code (Article 11.7) calls for a review every two years so that Member States are alerted and ready to act.(1). (Page down for the intervention we will make)

A new Resolution or Decision could call for:

  • WHO to collect data on baby food industry-funded digital marketing and data collection and assist Member States in legislating to end it;
  • Codex to follow WHO recommendations and curb the global trade of unhealthy products;
  • emergency responses that respect women´s autonomy while supporting breastfeeding and appropriate infant and young child feeding;
  • safeguards to prevent spillover and marketing of products targeting malnourished children (2)
  • policies that lower greenhouse gases and promote biodiverse, minimally processed, culturally appropriate foods;
  • acknowledgement of the risks of multi-stakeholder partnerships’ on nutrition policy setting and the need for sound conflict of interest policies
  • careful interpretation of WHO’s exclusive breastfeeding targets
  • a continuation of biennial reporting on the International Code and Resolutions.
  1. Article 11.7 of the Code states: “The Director-General shall report in even years to the World Health Assembly on the status of implementation of the Code; and shall, on request, provide technical support to Member States preparing national legislation or regulations, or taking other appropriate measures in implementation and furtherance of the principles and aim of this Code.
  2. The list of WHA Resolutions in the Decision omits the 2002 Resolution: WHA 55.25 This may be an oversight, but this is an important one that specifically calls on Member States (4) to ensure that the introduction of micronutrient interventions and the marketing of nutritional supplements do not replace, or undermine support for the sustainable practice of, exclusive breastfeeding and optimal complementary feeding;  

The IBFAN team (Alison Linnecar (Convenor of our Climate Change and Contaminants Working Group), and Dr Marina Rea of IBFAN Brazil)  is covering other issues at the  Executive Board Meeting including WHO’s Framework of Engagement with Non State Actors.

Provisional Agenda of the 73rd World Health Assembly

17-21st May State of the Code by Country Chart 2018

Note Item 18.Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.


IBFAN intervention for  Agenda item 18:  Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition

PDF of SHORT statement  as delivered:

Thank you for letting us comment on this important issue. 2020 is a reporting year for the International Code and Member States need to be alerted to new marketing tactics that threaten children’s health and survival.

After nearly 40 years, some would like this issue taken off WHO’s agenda – something that would suit the baby food industry very well.

We appeal to this EB to make a small amendment to the Draft Decision because it suggests that biennial reporting ends by 2026.  Why must it include any dates?  A crucially important requirement of the International Code is this biennial reporting and has resulted in 19 Resolutions that clarify and update it.  These Resolutions help governments adopt laws that protect health and save lives.

To use a blanket approach to change one of WHO’s flagship recommendations is very risky  and could signal undue Private Sector influence. If WHO wants to sunset its decisions please start with the ones that do little or nothing to protect health.

Just listening the Member States now, its clear that harmful promotion will not stop until every country has strong laws that are enforced. Although 85% have taken some action, under pressure from industry many of these measures are voluntary or not strong enough to tackle new marketing tactics, including the harmful marketing of products targeting malnourished children.

Longer version MIYCN:

Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to comment on the proposed decision the DG report. 2020 is a reporting year for the International Code and a new Resolution or Decision is needed to alert Member States to new marketing tactics that threaten children’s health and survival. After nearly 40 years, some would like to see this issue taken off WHO’s agenda, so we were alarmed that the Draft Decision suggests that biennial reporting ends by 2026. In an effort to ‘streamline’  two quite separate issues have been mixed up: The Implementation plan – which has a natural end date of 2025 – and reporting on the International Code – which in Article 11.7 calls for even year reporting  – with no end date.

This blanket approach fundamentally changes one of WHO’s most important Resolutions. This is too risky and must be changed. Harmful promotion will not stop until every country has strong laws that are enforced. Too many countries still lack such laws. Does anyone really believe that safeguards to protect breastfeeding and independent information are no longer needed? Perhaps this is the impact of WHO’s NSA business partners on WHO’s governance?

IBFAN calls on this EB to adopt a Decision or Resolution that addresses the following threats to maternal and child health:

  • Baby food industry-funded digital marketing and data collection;
  • Increased global trade of unhealthy products that exacerbate global warming (formulas contribute to environmental degradation and replace environment friendly breastfeeding);
  • Inappropriate emergency responses that fail to respect women´s autonomy or safeguard breastfeeding and appropriate infant and young child feeding;
  • Over-emphasis on micronutrients & supplements rather than biodiverse, minimally processed, culturally appropriate foods;
  • The marketing of products targeting malnourished children
  • Multi-stakeholder partnerships and lack of sound conflict of interest policies
  • Inappropriate interpretation of WHO’s exclusive breastfeeding targets


Agenda Item 22.1 WHO Reform – involvement of non-State Actors in WHO’s Governing bodies

(NSAs reduced to ONE Minute) :  Governance PDF   Move to webcast 2.12

Thank you.  The proposed Governance changes sadly reduce the chances of meaningful engagement with Civil Society.  Official Status for commercial entities was never foreseen in the Constitution and is a huge leap into the dark. Corporations are almost given human rights and the wear the same colour badges as civil society – confusing everyone. This gives them unprecedented intelligence gathering and influence and transforms their power and finances – supposedly all for the public good. Remember that Partnerships are, by definition, arrangements for ‘shared governance’ to achieve ‘shared goals.’

So please NO to a Global Health Forum –  In 2011 in Moscow companies portrayed their weak voluntary promises as the answer to the obesity crisis. Such conclusions will NOT help inform Member States properly.

And please NO sunsetting of key resolutions, especially those on marketing.

WHO must correct its faulty conflict of interest definition,  safeguard its independence and its unique role as the coordinating authority in setting global health norms. What is happening now is a bad model for Member States. IBFAN and Civil Society are here to help


Agenda Item: 19. Accelerating efforts on food safety. Food Safety EB146 PDF

IBFAN, a network of 270 groups in 170 countries, supports the MMI statement and welcomes the opportunity to comment on this important topic. We appreciate WHO’s work in this area, including at Codex. We have collaborated with WHO many times,  including on the ongoing problem of intrinsic contamination of powdered formula.

With regard to the safety of processed foods and new technologies a precautionary approach should be taken. The risks and unintended consequences of novel food technologies are invariably difficult to assess and the task of ensuring safety standards that are truly in the public interest is easily compromised if effective Conflict of Interest safeguards are lacking.

We repeat the calls to WHO and FAO to maintain its funding to Codex. Sadly many national and regional food safety agencies are compromised and some are run jointly with corporations.  This can only threaten their independence, credibility and trustworthiness. WHO is well placed to remind its Member States that food safety bodies must be publicly funded to be credible.

Indeed, the bigger the corporation, the bigger the incentive to hide problems.

Thank You


For more information contact:
Patti Rundall, Baby Milk Action/ IBFAN Global Council: prundall@babymilkaction.org +447786523493
Alison Linnecar, IBFAN WG convenor on Climate and Contaminant issues­­­­­­: alinnecar@gmail.com
Dr Marina Rea, IBFAN Brazil/IBFAN Global Council: marifrea@usp.br



MIYCN statement FRENCH version:

IBFAN se réjouit de pouvoir commenter le rapport du Directeur général et la proposition de décision qu’il contient. 2020 est une année de rapport pour le Code international et une nouvelle résolution ou une décision est nécessaire pour alerter les États membres sur les nouvelles stratégies de marketing qui menacent la santé et la survie des enfants. Nous savons qu’après 40 ans, certains souhaiteraient que cette question soit retirée de l’ordre du jour de l’OMS, nous avons donc été alarmés par le fait que le projet de décision implique que les rapports biennaux devraient prendre fin d’ici 2026.

Il semble que deux questions bien distinctes se soient mélangées: le Plan d’implémentation – dont la date limite convenue est fixée à fin 2025 – et le rapport sur le Code international – qui exige, dans son Article 11.7, un rapport complet les années paires, sans limite dans le temps.

Utiliser une approche globale unique pour modifier l’une des plus importantes résolutions de l’OMS est trop risqué, il faut changer cela.

Étant donné que les formes inappropriées de marketing promotionnels ne s’arrêteront pas avant que chaque pays n’ait une loi stricte en vigueur, et dans la mesure où de trop nombreux  pays ne disposent toujours pas de telles lois, comment peut-on croire que des mesures claires  garantissant la protection de l’allaitement maternel et une information indépendante ne soient plus nécessaires ? Voyons-nous maintenant l’impact que les partenariats de l’OMS avec des acteurs non gouvernementaux exercent sur la gouvernance de l’OMS ?

IBFAN en appelle au Conseil exécutif d’adopter une décision ou une résolution qui aborde les menaces suivantes pour la santé des enfants:
• Marketing numérique et collecte de données, financés par l’industrie des aliments pour bébés
• Augmentation du commerce mondial de produits et aliments malsains qui aggravent le réchauffement climatique. Les substituts du lait maternel contribuent à la dégradation de l’environnement et remplacent l’allaitement maternel respectueux de l’environnement.
• Réponses inadaptées en situation d’urgence qui ne respectent pas l’autonomie des femmes ou ne garantissent pas l’allaitement maternel et une alimentation appropriée du nourrisson et du jeune enfant.
• Insistance excessive sur les micronutriments et les suppléments enrichis plutôt que sur les aliments peu transformés, d’origine diversifiée et culturellement appropriés.
• Marketing de produits ciblant les enfants souffrant de malnutrition.

  • Partenariats multipartites et absence de solides politiques en matière de conflits d’intérêts.
    • Interprétation inappropriée des objectifs de l’OMS concernant l’allaitement maternel exclusif.


Bolton, Trump, Johnson – how food standards get lowered


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