A new monitoring report commissioned by UNICEF Lao has just become available and looks at marketing from November 2011 to January 2012. The monitoring found sales representatives, principally from Nestlé and Danone, targeting health workers, shop keepers and parents.
The findings begin:
This survey confirms the presence of violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and provides some insight into the baseline situation in the Lao PDR. Violations were more frequent in markets and shops where promotions and posters promoting breastmilk substitutes were frequently observed. Code violations were also observed in health facilities. The violations observed in the shops, markets and health facilities, including promotion to health workers, indicate the presence of sales representatives; and unethical practices being used by manufacturers and distributors to promote breastmilk substitutes indicate that there is a high risk of undermining optimal breastfeeding practices. The findings demonstrate that commercial companies producing infant formulas, complementary foods or follow-on formulas do not comply with Code requirements.
Based on the monitoring assessment in the selected provinces and in Vientiane Capital, no violations such as posters or billboards were observed in the city during each city tour. Violation of the Code was more likely in shops. Code violations were also observed in health facilities. Among the hospitals visited, only three out of ten hospitals did not have any violations. No donations of breastmilk substitutes to health facilities, or direct marketing by health workers were reported. However, the presence of stickers, flyers and growth charts with the name of infant formula companies on them, confirms the presence of sales representatives in hospitals and conflicts of interest among the health workers. Two companies (Nestlé and Dumex [a Danone company]) were the most noticeable companies.
Lao was selected by FTSE, the British stock-exchange listing company, to assess Nestlé in the context of its inclusion in the FTSE4Good ethical investment listing. Nestlé was added to the listing in March 2011 after FTSE weakened the Breastmilk Substitutes criteria to allow companies to be listed while violating the International Code and Resolutions, based on the company’s presentation of its policies and management systems.
UNICEF Lao has produced a critique of FTSE4Good explaining why it refused to participate in the assessment of Nestlé commissioned by FTSE – click here to download.