Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health passes motion to end baby food funding

Annual General Meeting, 27th April,  2016, Liverpool 

Motion that was passed: “In order for RCPCH as a professional body to avoid institutional conflicts of interest and thus maintain its reputation as an unbiased, independent educator and advocate for child health, the College should decline any commercial transactions or any other kind of funding or support from all companies that market products within the scope of the WHO Code on the marketing of breast milk substitutes

 

Baby Milk Action and its partners in the International Baby Food Action Network and the Baby Feeding Law Group are delighted that members of the RCPCH voted last night to end RCPCH dependence on the sponsorship of baby food companies. The RCPCH Council will decide on how to take this forward at there next meeting in July.

Patti Rundall, OBE, Policy Director of Baby Milk Action said, “The RCPCH has been a valued partner in the many-decade-long struggle to protect child health. Its contributions to discussions about the norms and standards adopted by the European Commission, European Parliament, Codex Alimentarius Commission and the World Health Assembly have made an enormous difference, not just to child health in the UK, but also globally. Its input has also helped improve the quality and safety of formulas that are needed for babies who are not breastfed. At fora where food standards are set such as Codex, the baby food industry invariably pushes the lowest scientific criteria – in order to get permission for unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredients and additives. “

Increasingly public health bodies are recognising the need to look to independent, trustworthy information upon which to base public health policies.   The motion does not prevent individual paediatricians working with companies on research, but does highlight  the duty of the RCPCH’ to maintain its credibility and reputation as an educator and advocate for child health.

Baby foods are now the fastest growing food sector with 2014 global sales of US$58 billion and predicted sales of US$ 70.6 billion by 2019.[1] Parents who use these products are also disproportionately targeted with misleading health and nutrition claims. [2]

Unlike tobacco, formulas are necessary for babies who are not breastfed. However the marketing tactics used by the baby food companies mirror those of the tobacco industry. They rely heavily on the manipulation of public opinion, appearing respectable; using front groups, funding science and infiltrating food safety systems – all with the purpose of weakening legislation – legislation that is essential for stopping marketing practices that violate children’s rights to health and improves product quality and safety.

Expert assessment shows that company information is not reliable, and certainly not confined the scientific and factual information required by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions that the RCPCH endorses.  Baby Milk Action has won cases at the Advertising Standards Authority over misleading advertising, and much better objective information is available from independent sources.

Accepting funding from such companies is a clear conflict of interest that not only violates World Health Assembly Resolutions [3] and creates opportunities for undue influence, but is an essential part of the corporate plan. The image transfer gained from prestigious bodies such as the RCPCH has huge financial and commercial value.

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