How companies are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic pretending their marketing through digital social media is ‘Humanitarian’ and that their products build immunity.
INDIA: The above page from a Danone YouTube video advising COVID+ mothers to stay 6ft from their babies was withdrawn following complaints. But Danone is still inviting mothers to subscribe to it’s Voice of Experts YouTube Channel. In doing so Danone is violating the International Code, the Resolutions, the Indian Law and the advice of WHO and UNICEF. Baby Food companies are not allowed to make direct or indirect contact with mothers. The channel also includes promotions of first stage infant formula and invites mothers to make direct contact for advice via phone and email.
Lancet Volume 396, ISSUE 10259, e58, October 24, 2020
BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3316 (Published 25 August 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3316
*Christoffer van Tulleken, Charlotte Wright, Amy Brown, David McCoy, Anthony Costellochristoffer.firstname.lastname@example.org
Infant formula companies are ‘exploiting’ COVID-19 pandemic Companies are accused of using COVID-19 to push their products, including targeting parents’ ‘fears of infection’.
BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3316 (Published 25 August 2020) https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3316
By Teresa Welsh // 09 June 2020
Nutraingredients: this is an online journal that is sponsored by the supplements and other industries. Here’s a screenshot from an article that is using COVID-19 as a selling point.
Nicole Jameson, a Breastfeeding Counsellor with ABA, sent these Mumstore images that are targeted facebook advertisements from Danone/Nutricia Australia. They offer free delivery ‘during this uncertain time’ from their web store further details: www.mumstore.com.au
Lactagrow is a breastmilk substitute targeting babies 1-3 (the packshot below is taken from a marketing website.
The Philippines, Baguio City: exploiting fear of micronutrient deficiencies
11th May 2020: Anne Medoza on behalf of the Breastfeeding Care Center of the North, and Circle of Breastfriends (Baguio and Benguet) succeeded in getting withdrawn a Resolution permitting the distribution of ‘milk formula to lactating mothers and mothers with toddlers’ Resolution 255-2020) It is not clear what formulas were to be distributed, but the term ‘formula’ raised concern that it would be a breastmilk substitute for older babies or a ‘milk for mothers’ – products that are widely promoted in Asia. Formulas targeting breastfeeding mothers are an expensive marketing scam that can undermine womens’ confidence in their bodies’ ability to breastfeed and confidence in unprocessed, cheaper and often more nutritious local foods are somehow lacking. These formulas are often cross-branded with infant formula opening the door to the ever expanding range of milks targeting older babies and young children. Here is a link to a piece we did in 2014 explaining why we believe that ‘Milks for Mothers’ are really a marketing scam that is very undermining of breastfeeding.
This case has special resonance. Baguio City was the home of Dr. Natividad Clavano, Head of Pediatrics, at Baguio General Hospital who, in the 1970s, after studying in the UK with Prof David Morley at the Institute of Child Health, stopped the routine formula feeding and separation of mothers and babies in her hospital – drastically reducing the infant mortality rate.
Examples of baby food companies using the Covid-19 lockdown to conduct webinars.
Click Here for BPNI COVID-19 Resources
See above for the new YouTube Channel launched by Danone – the world’s second largest manufacturer of foods and milks for infants and young children.
As the lockdown continues, new mothers are looking to seek support and guidance from medical experts. In order to guide them through their journey of motherhood, we at Danone have introduced our digital initiative- #VoiceOfExperts Watch it here: https://t.co/Y9jphfEM1Q pic.twitter.com/ixCWi9Apth
— Danone India (@DanoneIndia) May 6, 2020
INDIA: Nestlé Lactogen infant formula being given out by a charity
BPNI alert: Commercial baby foods in ration supplies or donations may cause more harm than good to health of babies https://www.facebook.com/144666722367030/posts/1602227173277637/?vh=e&d=n.https://www.bpni.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Action-Alert-1-COVID-19.pdf
Click Here for BPNI COVID-19 Resources
The IBFAN group in India, the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) came across this video. showing Lactogen being donated by the Ladli Foundation Trust to mothers. On being alerted by BPNI the Ladli Foundation Trust has tweeted on 29 April, saying that they were stopping the distribution of baby food and that it was done on demand from the communities. While BPNI commends the action taken by the Ladli Foundation Trust and Delhi Police, the procurement process, the sponsors of the donations and the claim of demands from the communities needs to be investigated. BPNI has heard of several instances of free supplies of commercial baby foods in Delhi and two other places in north India and believes that this may be just a tip of the iceberg.
“The Ladli Foundation Trust promoted this effort on its website and called on Nestle to support it. Giving the benefit of doubt that Ladli Foundation Trust might be ignorant of the issues around breastfeeding and hence distribute breastmilk substitutes like Lactogen. However, it is bizarre that the foundation Trust also spread misinformation about feeding of newborn babies that “they cannot digest regular milk” and “their unhealthy mother don’t have milk for them” and therefore this milk powder is being supplied free. The DCP North Zone also joined in to distribute the infant formula and talk about feeding of young babies even below 6 months that they are not able to get enough mother’s milk because they are from low income society. She says powder milk is necessary.
INDIA: Abbott Nutrition – US manufacturer of Breast Milk Substitutes
At Abbott Nutrition, your trusted partner, we always bring you the latest, relevant & most advanced scientific sessions which meets current challenges. Today, Covid-19 is the biggest challenge against mankind. Nutritional management improves immunity & How it can help to fight against Covid-19? We are glad to invite you for an Abbott Live Webinar on nutritional management of patients with COVID 19: *New ESPEN recommendation by Dr Singer CO -author of ESPEN expert statements & practical guidance for nutritional management of COVID 19 Subjects* Schedule for the same is as follow: *Date:6th April 2020(Monday)*. *Time: 9:30 PM*
JOIN US LIVE! PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS PRESENTATION WILL BE IN ENGLISH AND WILL NOT BE RECORDED.
*Kindly register in advance by clicking on register in attached Invitation PDF*. You can also download your certificate of participation post completion of the Webinar.
Regards, Nishi Bansal,Abbott Nutrition
They have been circulating COVID information advising that newborns of COVID positive mother should be separated from mother at birth and baby kept minimum 6 feet away from mother. In this example they seem to have summarised and branded American Academy of Pediatrics information.
CHINA Wuhan: Reckitt Benkiser (RB) owns Mead Johnson, a US manufacturer of Breast Milk Substitutes (BMS) that produces Enfamil and Nutramigen infant formula. MJ consistently violates the International Code.
This new RB Fight for Access Fund, mentions support to maternal child care in Wuhan by Mead Johnson Nutrition. https://www.rb.com/media/news/2020/march/rb-launches-fight-for-access-fund/
25 March 2020, Slough, UK: Today RB is announcing the launch of the RB Fight for Access Fund to improve access to health, hygiene and nutrition for all. The Fund is, and will, be a demonstration of our Purpose and Fight in action- to protect, heal and nurture in the relentless pursuit of a cleaner, healthier world….
Dettol: £6 million committed to the front-line health workers in Wuhan, China where we answered the urgent call for critical medical equipment. Mead Johnson Nutrition provided expectant new mothers with access to urgent maternal child care.
UK. – ARLA – Manufacturer of BMS
March 2020. This photo shows follow-on milk that was donated by Arla to a charity who sent it on to their local Baby Friendly Hospital in the UK. Following reports of stockpiling and shortages of infant formula – someone put the milk out alongside a notice: “Free baby milk – help yourself” Thankfully it was spotted by infant feeding staff and taken away – but not before it appeared on Facebook.
Watch out and report any other promotions masquerading as humanitarian in the coming months.
- promotion of different types of discharge programs which include various ways the names of mothers are turned over to the companies in exchange for free formula to either the hospital and/or directly to mothers, or both;
- branded and non-branded virtual in-service training for staff on a variety of topics, including breastfeeding; and
- “morale boosters” for staff.”
Medela is a breastpump manufacturer that has a commercial interest in encouraging the use of pumps and has been found to violate the International Code and Resolutions.
Breast Milk Could Hold Clues to Coronavirus Protection. This New York City
Researcher Wants to Study Yours. She’s examining whether the antibodies lingering in human milk can protect babies — and perhaps even adults one day — from coronavirus. By Emma Ockerman Apr 8 2020
UK: Bundles of Joy
NESTLE: website claims about COVID-19
Working with physicians to develop new tailored COVID-19 medical nutrition:
From Elisabeth Sterken, INFACT CANADA: Kere in Canada Nestle is in partnership with and contributing to Food Banks Canada and its logo is very visible. As well they are providing formula via the food banks!
WHO and UNICEF Guidance.
CLICK HERE for inter-agency Guidance on Infant Feeding in Emergencies
CLICK HERE for WHO and UNICEF Briefings on COVID that stress the need to protect breastfeeding and skin to skin contact.
Three UNICEF briefs specifically warn of the risks of commercial exploitation:
NEW UNICEF GUIDANCE Response to COVID-19: Guidance Note on Financial Contributions or Contributions in-kind from Food and Beverage companies Version 2 (29th April 2020).
- This is an important guidance on whether to accept financial contributions or contributions in-kind from food and beverage companies in the context of the response to the COVID19 pandemic. It provides recommendations to mitigate risks and steps for implementation, forbidding many of the tactics that manufacturers of baby foods and ultra-processed foods high in fats, sugar and/or salt are now using, eg cause-related marketing, contributions in kind, partnership language, co-branding.
- “Ensure safeguards are in place to avoid conflict of interest from companies marketing breastmilk substitutes and foods for infants and young children and women and ensure that donations or free supplies are prohibited. Prevent commercial exploitation of COVID-19 through unnecessary use of specialized foods and supplements, and spillover to those who do not need them.”
Infant and Young Child programming in the context of COVID-19. UNICEF Brief 2 V1 30th March
- “Donations of BMS by manufacturers has been shown to lead to increased use of substitutes and a reduction in breastfeeding. For this reason, the World Health Assembly (WHA) has stated that there should be no donations of free or subsidized supplies of breastmilk substitutes in any part of the health care system. This prohibition extends to emergency settings where governments have been urged by WHA to ensure that any required breast-milk substitutes are purchased, distributed and used according to strict criteria. For more details refer to Operational Guidance on Infant Feeding in Emergencies.”
- [Avoid partnerships with companies that produce ‘unhealthy foods]: “Such engagement carries the risk of the government and its partners to be perceived as endorsing a specific brand or products. Engagement with companies producing unhealthy food may damage reputation of the host governments, donor governments and communities. It may also appear to contradict the efforts on prevention of overweight.”
• Companies that manufacture BMS should continue to be excluded from any in-kind donations, funding engagements or co-branded partnership
- Frequently Asked Questions: Breastfeeding and COVID-19. For health care workers (28 April 2020) WHO. With web story. The The FAQ/Decision tree will be translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish soon.
See the Conflict of Interest Page and in particular 2016 WHA Res 69/9 – WHO Guidance on ending inappropriate marketing of foods for infants and young children (WHA 69/7 Add1)(Rec 6) and UNICEF Covid Briefing above.
US JUNK FOOD EXPLOITATION: Collected by @lucymsullivan of the US organisation ‘Feed the Truth”
From Baby Milk Action Archives:
Here is an excerpt from Baby Milk Action’s Update no 39 from 2007. This is when the UN changed its policy on HIV.
UN HIV Policy changed as research shows exclusive breastfeeding cuts death toll
The protection and promotion of breastfeeding has been ranked as the most cost-effective intervention for child survival, and could prevent 13–15% of child deaths in low-income countries. A 2006 investigation into a serious outbreak of diarrhoea in Botswana highlighted again the danger of artificial feeding: 93% of the infants admitted to hospital were not breastfeeding, and these children had the greatest risk of dying. However, the knowledge that breastfeeding can also transmit HIV to children has created a dilemma for parents and health policy makers and has undermined infant feeding policies in many countries – a situation that has been exploited to the full by the baby food industry. Since 1999 researchers in South Africa have been pointing to evidence that exclusive breastfeeding reduced the transmission of the HIV virus, at least for the first 3 months. But since the studies were not specifically designed to address this question, no one knew for sure how significant exclusive breastfeeding was. The world needed more evidence.
Now, at last, the results of a new meticulous, independently funded, 6-year prospective study have been published by The Lancet (Mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1 infection during exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life: Coovadia et al., Lancet March 31 2007; 369: 1107–16 Exclusive Breastfeeding and HIV W.Holmes, F Savage 1065-1066)
The study of over 2,722 children in KwaZulu–Natal, South Africa found that mixed and replacement feeding presents an unacceptable risk to infant survival. In relation to HIV transmission, when HIV-positive mothers breastfed exclusively, their babies had a lower risk of infection with HIV than those with any type of mixed feeding. Adding formula to breastfeeding nearly doubled transmission risk and the addition of solids increased the risk 11-fold. Importantly, the study also showed that mortality by 3 months of age for replacement-fed babies (15%) was more than double that of those who were exclusively breastfed (6%). The study also demonstrated the effectiveness and feasibility of interventions to promote exclusive breastfeeding.
- Ahead of The Lancet publication, but already in response to all the new in response to all the new evidence, WHO held a Technical Consultation on HIV and Infant Feeding in Geneva in October 2006, updating its recommendations on infant feeding. A new UN Consensus Statement was adopted saying: “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for HIV-infected women for the first 6 months of life unless replacement feeding is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe for them and their infants before that time…. Breastfeeding mothers of infants and young children who are known to be HIV-infected should be strongly encouraged to continue breastfeeding….Governments should ensure that the package of interventions referenced above, as well as the conditions described in current guidance, are available before any distribution of free commercial infant formula is considered.” See: http://www.who.int/child-adolescent-
- Not everyone in the UN system seems to be fully aware of the new statement. To the Indian media UNAIDS chief in India, Dr Dennis Broun said: “This research is a highly significant input but much more evidence is required for a formal recommendation to be made regarding exclusively breast feeding of children.”
- New WHO publication: Evidence on the long-term effects of breastfeeding: systematic reviews and meta-analysis. See: