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Baby food marketing 'pervasive, misleading and aggressive' - UN report | | My Baby My Star

How the marketing of formula milk affects our infant feeding decisions, The first in a series of reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is based on interviews with parents, pregnant women and health workers in eight countries.

More than half of those surveyed admitted that they had been targeted Formula milk company.

Invasive Marketing

UNICEF and WHO allege that the $55 billion dairy industry uses systematic and unethical marketing strategies to influence parental decisions about infant feeding and exploitative practices that endanger child feeding and violate international obligations.

“This report shows very clearly that formula milk marketing remains unacceptably pervasive, misleading and aggressive,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Calls for regulations on exploitative marketing to be “urgently adopted and enforced to protect children’s health”.

The report found not only that industry marketing techniques include unregulated and invasive online targeting, but also sponsored advisory networks and helplines; promotions and freebies offered; and influenced the training and referrals of health workers.

barriers to breastfeeding

The report underscores that the industry often provides parents and healthcare workers with misleading and scientifically unfounded information, and also violates the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes – a landmark public health agreement to protect mothers from aggressive marketing by the infant formula industry.

After surveying 8,500 parents and pregnant women and 300 healthcare professionals worldwide, the report found that 84 per cent of all women surveyed in the UK had been exposed to formula milk marketing; 92 percent in Vietnam and 97 percent in China – making them more likely to choose bottle feeding.

“False and misleading messages about infant formula are a significant barrier to breastfeeding, which we know is best for babies and mothers,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.


The dairy industry spends billions each year influencing your decisions about what to feed your baby.

Misleading Messages

In all countries surveyed, women expressed a strong desire to exclusively breastfeed, ranging from 49 percent in Morocco to 98 percent in Bangladesh.

However, the WHO/UNICEF report describes how a continued flow of misleading marketing messages reinforces myths about breastfeeding and breast milk and undermines women’s confidence in their ability to breastfeed successfully.

Ms Russell called for “robust policies, laws and investment in breastfeeding” to protect women from unethical marketing practices and give them access “to the information and support they need to raise their families”.

busting myth

Some of the myths surrounding breastfeeding include the inadequacy of human milk for infant feeding; that infant formula enhances development or immunity; and that the quality of breast milk deteriorates over time.

According to the data Breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, followed by exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or more provides a strong line of defense against all forms of childhood malnutrition.

Breastfeeding also serves as the first vaccine for babies, protecting infants from many common childhood diseases while reducing the future risk of diabetes, obesity and some cancers in breastfeeding mothers.

According to the WHO, breastfeeding is the best way to provide infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development and can prevent 13 percent of infant mortality.

Vincent Cardinal

A woman breastfeeds her daughter at the Quebec Aquarium in Canada.

formula milk sAles double in 20 years

Despite these benefits, only 44 percent of babies under the age of six months are exclusively breastfed worldwide.

While global breastfeeding rates have barely increased over the past two decades, formula milk sales have more than doubled in about the same time.

And alarmingly, the report finds that the baby food industry has approached health workers in every country with giveaways, research grants and even sales commissions to influence new mothers in their dietary decisions.

More than a third of the women surveyed said a healthcare professional had recommended a particular brand of infant formula to them.

Tackle the challenges

After the report was released, WHO, UNICEF and partners called on governments, health workers and the baby food industry to end the exploitative marketing of formula milk.

They also called for full implementation of the Code’s requirements, including passing, monitoring and enforcing legislation to prevent the promotion of formula milk; Investing in supportive breastfeeding strategies and programs, such as B. adequate paid parental leave; and prohibiting healthcare workers from accepting sponsorship from companies that market infant and young child foods for scholarships, awards, grants, meetings or events.

Milk formula and tobacco are the only two products that have international marketing ban recommendations.

In this case, through the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

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