Voluntary code for infant formula revised

By Kate Shuttleworth

Associate Minister of Health Jo Goodhew reiterated the priority was promoting breast-feeding. Photo / Thinkstock
Associate Minister of Health Jo Goodhew reiterated the priority was promoting breast-feeding. Photo / Thinkstock

Changes have been made to how infant formula can be distributed in disasters in a revised voluntary code of practice launched today.

Infant Nutrition Council chief executive Jan Carey said the changes, made after the Canterbury earthquakes, would mean infant formula manufacturers would have to give donations to designated health agencies to control.

Formula donated in an emergency cannot be given directly to families and would be given only to infants medically required to be fed using formula, under the revised voluntary code.

Any donations would need to be in accordance with national emergency preparedness plans.

The revised code of practice for the marketing of infant formula in New Zealand brings it in line with the World Health Organisation's code of marketing of breast-milk substitutes.

It includes preventing companies from distributing samples of infant formula to pregnant women, mothers of infants, or their families and caregivers of infants unless they are distributed by a health practitioner.

Gifts or utensils or other articles that may discourage a mother from breast feeding her infant should not be distributed to pregnant women, mothers of infants and caregivers of infants under the revised code.

Ms Carey said this included free gifts and products.

"Anything that could be seen as an inducement to take formula - like a gift of formula, branded pens, cups, or bottles."

"It would be very sinister if an infant formula company gave a parent a bottle wouldn't it - that's a no no."

Ms Carey said there had only been one breach to her knowledge of the voluntary code and even though the code is voluntary the public outrage was enough.

She said a breach of the code resulted in a public document going on the website.

"Breast feeding advocates take notice and it causes huge brand reputation loss."

Ms Carey said infant formula manufacturers and marketers who were members of INC were committed to the code and believed breast milk was the best form of nutrition for a baby in the first instance.

Associate Minister of Health Jo Goodhew reiterated the priority was promoting breast-feeding.

"Breast-feeding provides optimum nutrition for infants - it assists in the physical and emotional development, encourages emotional attachment between the mother and baby and offers protection against infectious and chronic disease," she said.

"Proper use of breast milk substitutes means on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution which is where the code comes in," she said.

- APNZ

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