Baby Food industry refuses to follow the Code –  Call to Action is concluded

“…The BMS industry as a whole has sent a message that it is unwilling to fulfill its obligation to comply with global health policy that is endorsed by the World Health Assembly, comprised of 194 national governments.”

“The disappointing response to the Call to Action underscores the urgent need for strong national Code legislation that is rigorously enforced. Human rights bodies of the United Nations have stated that adoption of the Code is a core obligation of countries under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

 WHO, UNICEF, 1,000 Days, BRAC, FHI Solutions, Helen Keller International, Save the Children, March 23, 2021

Following the failure of the Breastmilk Substitutes Call to Action (CTA) WHO has informed us that: the CTA process has concluded and there are no plans to revisit or extend it.   We hope WHO will publicly disassociate itself from this initiative as we asked in IBFAN’s  Counter Call in June 2020.  Our Counter Call was endorsed and supported by senior UN officials and over 11,000 people on a petition launched by La Leche League International).

Of the 21 baby food companies approached by the CTA, only two, Kraft and Meiji  (together with less than 1% of the global BMS market) made commitments to “end aggressive marketing practices by 2030.” Although some companies made small changes, no others made even the partial commitment required  – the profits to be made are simply too enticing.

Nestle – the most notorius company,  consistently responsible for the most violations of the Code, arrogantly offered its ” technical expertise on request to any BMS company who would like to learn from our many years of experience in creating a robust, WHO Code-aligned policy and governance system”. 

Although the CTA has succeeded in showing the refusal of so many companies to align their policies and practices with the Code,  CTA’s promotion of voluntary commitments has wasted valuable time and delayed meaningful action to end harmful marketing. It has also sent a confusing message to policy makers that voluntary commitments work, that everyone should now ‘work together’ and that we should ignore the ongoing harm to planetary and human health and rights by global giants.

We look forward to working with WHO and UNICEF on strengthening legislation, and hope that all the non-compliant companies will now be relegated to a “Hall of Shame” alongside tobacco,  arms and other companies that do so much harm to human and planetary health.

 

Below are some of the key problems with the Call to Action:

  1. It disregarded conflicts of interest safeguards and promoted commercia lobbying, inappropriate partnerships and commercial ‘education.’ (Clarifications about the need for COI safeguards in health worker education were added to the CTA website only later, after IBFAN’s critique was published.)
  2. While sales of formulas for babies 12-36 months continue to boom, the CTA focuses on weak and meaningless ‘here today and gone tomorrow’ promises relating  to products 0-12 months. Through this strategy the companies most harmful to children would undoubtedly  argue that they are legitimate funders of all manner of projects or initiatives such as Nutrition for Growth (N4G) or the newly formed WHO Foundation.
  3. With no approval by the World Health Assembly, the CTA gave babyfood companies a 10-year-license to build the market for unnecessary and risky ultra-processed products targeting older babies (12-36months) – ignoring World Health Assembly demands that these products function as breastmilk substitutes and must not be promoted.
  4. The CTA undermined the human rights approach to health, adequate food and nutrition.
  5. CTA monitoring and analysis was delegated to the BMGF-Funded Access to Nutrition Foundation (ATNF) and its Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI) The ATNI Mission statement says: “ATNI focuses on developing tools and initiatives that track and drive the contribution made by the food and beverage sector to addressing the world’s global nutrition challenges.”  It claims to be ‘independent from the companies it assesses’ yet ATNI ensures that its methodology and presentation of its results integrate the ‘perspectives and expertise of companies, CSOs and investors’”  June 2020 Such ‘collaboration’ is in direct contradiction to WHA Resolution 49.15 that requires monitoring to be:  “…carried out in a transparent, independent manner, free from commercial influence.”

The statements can be found on the BMS Call to Action website

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