Dr Tedros explains why the predatory marketing baby feeding products can harm children and announces the new WHO reports on predatory marketing.

WHO UNICEF multi-country report
How marketing of formula milk influences our decisions on infant feeding

WHO report on scope and impact of Digital Marketing 

WHO Policy Brief and “model law” for the European Region covering breastmilk substitutes, baby foods and related products

WHO/UNICEF/IBFAN 2022 Code Status report .


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IBFAN welcomes the WHO UNICEF reportHow marketing of formula milk influences our decisions on infant feeding,

On 23rd February, WHO and UNICEF launched a hard-hitting multi-country report –How the marketing of formula milk influences our decisions on infant feeding. The report exposes the extent of marketing tactics that influence infant and young child feeding decisions. It finds that exposure to formula milk marketing reaches 84 per cent of all women surveyed in the United Kingdom; 92 per cent of women surveyed in Viet Nam and 97 per cent of women surveyed in China, increasing their likelihood of choosing formula feeding.”

The report clearly recommends that governments everywhere adopt, monitor and enforce laws to prevent the promotion of formula milk, in line with the International Code and subsequent WHA Resolutions,  prohibit promotional claims, adopt parental leave and other policies to support breastfeeding.  It also recommends that health workers are banned from accepting sponsorship from companies that market foods for infants and young children for scholarships, awards, grants, meetings, or events.

The Code does not need reform.  At the launch and in media reports some have suggested that the Code needs to be reformed.  We believe this to be a really bad idea that would be used by companies and industry-friendly governments to argue for more delay.  But there is no need.  The Code covers all forms of promotion – including e-commerce and cross promotion. Provided WHO provides its Member States with opportunities to adopt strengthening Resolutions and provided governments put these into law,  the Code can keep pace with marketing.  The Code is a global document and doesn’t address how governments legislate, prosecute and hold corporations to account. This is best done at national or regional level.

IBFAN has been monitoring company practices and alongside WHO and UNICEF has been helping governments bring in strong effective legislation on the Code for the last 40 years.  After many failed attempts  to persuade baby food companies to voluntarily stop predatory marketing, it’s clear that there is no point chasing these companies for watered down here-today, gone-tomorrow promises or considering them to be  ‘partners’ in health.   This new report should leave no-one in any doubt: strong legislation is the best and only way forward.  Policy setting processes, including global trading standards (2)(3), must be safeguarded from commercial influence through effective transparency and Conflict of Interest safeguards.  

Click Here,  for the report and other useful materials.

CLICK HERE for a a sign-on letter.  #EndExploitativeMarketing

Here is some of the media coverage:


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See the video recordings  of the launch of WHO’s research on unethical and aggressive formula industry marketing.   Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and partners will launch a new report, How the marketing of formula milk influences our decisions on infant feeding.   Helen Clark – former Prime Minister of New Zealand – will be part of the panel for the morning event and Dr Hugo López-Gatell Ramírez, Vice Minister of Prevention and Health Promotion, Government of Mexico will be part of the panel for the second event.

(1)  Interference in public health policy: examples of how the baby food industry uses tobacco industry tactics This paper shows how the baby food industry uses all six tobacco industry interference tactics to shape global and national governance to suit their objectives:  (1) manoeuvring to hijack the political and legislative process; (2) exaggerating economic importance of the industry; (3) manipulating public opinion to gain appearance of respectability; (4) fabricating support through front groups; (5) discrediting proven science; and (6) intimidating governments with litigation.
(2) Will the baby food industry get their way at Codex?  Summary of what happened at the last Codex meeting in November 2021

(3) The baby food industry’s destruction of an irreplaceable natural resource. IBFAN Statement 5th Nov 2021

Below some of the images from Constance Ching’s article.   For more evidence of the widespread marketing tactics of the major baby food companies visit our global monitoring page:

WHO Best Buys

2017 Best buys

This contains a weak recommendation:

Promote and support exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, including promotion of breastfeeding) 

There are being revised  but are still not strong enough: first draft of the Discussion paper :

Protection, promotion and support of optimal breastfeeding practices




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    One thought on “4 new WHO reports expose marketing by the $55 billion formula milk industry

    • 23/02/2022 at 11:20 pm

      The timing couldn’t have been better for publishing these results. This is an example of something good coming from “bad things”!
      The pseudo science and crushing of “informed choice” during Covid, coupled with the recent baby formula contaminations/ recalls, along with this explosive study results, sets the wheels in full motions for Baby Friendly to take center stage. Informed choice is the goal here, to educate and respect. No one is limiting access to formula or demonizing formula, it’s about the predatory marketing of formula that leads to sick babies (up to 800,000 preventable deaths per year) by denying education regarding the many benefits of breastfeeding to our parents, so they can make a truly informed decision. This research highlights the lengths formula companies are willing to go for a buck, pretending they care (offering 24/7 call lines for support) simultaneously professing their formula to be answer and not communicating evidence based research (better than mom’s milk). The research also highlights the conflicting role of the healthcare provider as both trusted educator and formula promotor. Apparently health care workers are targeted by the formula companies too. This is very good information.
      The data leaves plenty of room open for new studies too. I am happy to see so many people from all over the world come together with outstanding leadership standing up for informed choice for moms and babies!


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