Digital Marketing is out of control –  a Resolution is needed to protect mothers and babies

WHO 154th Executive Board, WHO HQ  Geneva, 22 27 January-  2024.

2024 is a reporting year for  Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN)

Digital Marketing  of baby feeding products  is the predominant source of exposure to promotion globally and is  now totally out of control. Parents and carers everywhere are bing  targeted by paid  ‘influencers’ and other deceptive schemes that undermine WHO and national health recommendations and disempower parents.

We were pleased that over 20 EB members congratulated WHO on the  Guidance on digital marketing of breast-milk substitutes   (Digital Guidance ENG) and  Brazil, supported by  Bangladesh and Afghanistan, called for a Resolution.  This is critically important and sends a  clear message to all WHO Member States that there is a political expectation to implement it. Implementation of this Guidance will have zero cost to governments, yet the lowering of healthcare costs and stronger, more able workforces will benefit national and family economies.

With so many serious emergencies caused by conflicts and climate events on our minds, it’s easy to forget the importance of protecting and supporting women who want to breastfeed – a lifeline for so many babies that provides food, nurturing care and immune support.

CLICK HERE for the 6 interventions IBFAN made during the EB: Maternal Infant and Child Nutrition,  Emergencies, General Programme of Work,  SDGs, Climate Change and FENSA

 Live webcast.   WEBCAST AGENDA ITEM 20 – MIYCN

EB Members (34).  EB Chair and Officers. Permanent Missions Participants list.  Statements by NSAs


It is important to note that the DG report concludes as follows:


32. The Board is invited to note the report and to provide the following guidance to the Secretariat in respect of the questions set out below.

  • As the comprehensive implementation plan on maternal, infant and young child nutrition is coming to an end in 2025, what next steps should be taken by the Secretariat in preparation for this deadline and in support to achieving Sustainable Development Goal targets by 2030, considering both the implementation plan and the formulated targets?
  • Regarding the guidance on regulatory measures aimed at restricting digital marketing of breast-milk substitutes, how can uptake of the guidance be strengthened?

Infant feeding in Emergencies. Food insecurity and malnutrition is now a reality for far too many people. We will be reminding policy makers of the need to support and protect women who want to  breastfeed – a resilient practice that provides food, nurturing care, immune support and is a lifeline in emergencies. Pre-preparedness plans must follow the  IFE Operational Guidance, and include appropriate training, alongside Conflicts Interest safeguards – not just for disasters, but also for  ‘normal ‘ times.

Messaging:  We will call for safeguards to prevent appeals  that promote  ultra-processed fortified products as magic bullets with no mention of breastfeeding and the importance of bio-diverse foods.

Global Trade:  We will ask UN and humanitarian agencies to use their considerable diplomatic influence at Codex and all global fora towards a One Health approach and to challenge the corporate-led food system that has done so much harm to the ecosystem and bio-diverse sustainable foods.

There will also be discussions about a social participation resolution, Climate Change and many other related issues.

Deadlines for submitting Resolutions

A new proposed timetable for the submission of Resolutions has caused some confusion amongst Member States so we asked WHO for legal advice and received this response from Dr Armstrong, Director of WHO’s Governing Bodies Department. He clarifies that  “resolutions or decisions should be introduced at least 15 days before the opening of the session and not later than the close of the first day of the session (22 January)…. However, as you highlight below, MS are currently undergoing both formal and informal reforms in relationship to governance. It is the latter which led to MS agreeing amongst themselves to introduce deadlines which would provide them with greater certainty in relationship to matters they must contend with.  Any draft resolution received of a non-urgent nature would likely not be well received by the board – however, as mentioned above, it is the legal right for a MS to propose one.”

EB 153 (May 2023) Template and recommended timeline for proposing resolutions and decisions.EXECUTIVE BOARD EB153  (2)  ……(b) that, if such proposals miss the deadlines set out in that timeline, the proposing Member State will share the rationale with all Member States via email regarding the urgency of having their proposal considered in the current cycle and the consequences of delaying its consideration until the following governing body cycle;

IBFAN Press Release, May 2022;  Thailand and Bangladesh urge WHO to take the lead in tradeEB 152 2023. This includes statements from 45 Countries.

EU Directive to fight Greenwashing.  An EU directive targeting widespread greenwashing and banning the use of misleading and vague environmental claims on products has been adopted by the European Parliament.

The new rules seek to ensure labels on goods will be more trustworthy for consumers.

EB members as PDF.

Participants list from WHA76 May 2023

WHO Basic Document 49th Edition 2020  Rule 32 relates to the timing of submissions of Resolutions:

Rule 32  Proposals for resolutions or decisions to be considered by the Board relating to items of the agenda should be introduced at least 15 days before the opening of the session and may, in any event, be introduced not later than the close of the first day of the session. However, if a session is scheduled for two days or less, such proposals may be introduced no later than 48 hours prior to the opening of the session. The Board may, if it deems it appropriate, permit the late introduction of such proposals.

 Compilation of the Code and all the Resolutions.

PHM Tracker link

Articles on digital marketing that may be useful -some on PubMed  digital marketing breastmilk substitute – Search Results – PubMed (

15-19 January 2024: Series of public briefings and policy debates ahead of WHO EB 154, hosted by G2H2

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