How Formula Giants Are Breaking The Code

Have you heard of the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes?

The Code is an international set of recommendations, which regulates the marketing of breast-milk substitutes and in simple terms, it advocates that babies be breastfed and that any promotion of breast milk substitutes be banned.

The reasoning behind the creation and implementation of The Code is to protect and improve breastfeeding rates.  The World Health Organization (WHO) states that breastfeeding is "unparalleled in providing the ideal food for infants" and research has found that over three quarters of a million lives would be saved yearly if breastfeeding was universally practised:

"The protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding rank among the most effective interventions to improve child survival. Increasing breastfeeding to near-universal levels could save more than 820 000 lives every year."

Yet the industry of breast milk substitutes, currently valued at $70.6 billion, isn't renowned for following the rules.  The Code explicitly states that there should be no advertising or promotion of formula milk, including any advertising through mass media outlets such as websites or social media.  Yet the WHO have found that current marketing practices are increasingly targeting blogs and social media channels:

"The rise in, and popularity of, social media channels, as well as internet sites dedicated to pregnant women and mothers, often provide manufacturers and distributors with new and unregulated entry points to market their products."

Each week, I receive many emails asking if I accept guest blog posts on my site (I don't.)  Lately, I've received several asking me to publish generic content such as 'how to travel with kids', or 'the top three strollers every mom needs’.  Each of these seemingly benign requested posts have also included a singular embedded text link.  Where do these text links route to?  Can you guess?

The links route directly to one of the four formula giants.

Publishing guest posts is commonplace for most blogs and also how many bloggers earn money, as they can charge for hosting these posts.  I wonder how many websites the formula giants are reaching out to, via their third party email accounts?

Not only is this practise unethical, as they are targeting new moms specifically via trusted mommy bloggers…but this avenue of unregulated promotion fundamentally breaks The Code.

And so we are left to regulate ourselves.  Somewhere in between school runs and toddler groups, we’re left to challenge these unethical companies that make billions of dollars each year…with nothing more than a sense of moral obligation and a hearty helping of mama bear frustration to boot.

It’s a good job there’s not much in this world stronger than an enraged mama bear.

To the industry insiders, I see you…and I am enraged.

Related: Why UNICEF wants all Babies to Breastfeed within an Hour of Birth


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