Ban on marketing of baby formula 'ignored' by companies [Cape Times (South Africa)]
(Cape Times (South Africa) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) LEGISLATION against the marketing of baby formula has been in place in South Africa since December 2012.
But, according to a baseline survey carried out by Unicef, companies here are violating the law - and getting away with it.
Research has found that breastfeeding can reduce infant mortality by 13 percent and that babies who are not breastfed are 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die from diarrhoea, but, says Unicef nutrition specialist Chantell Witten, "violations are rife".
"Our baseline survey, which will be released at the end of this month, shows that there are violations taking place. Several health officials, especially paediatricians and dieticians, are blatantly giving recommendations to moms about using formula," she said.
Companies, that were in direct competition with each other, were reporting one another for violation of regulations, she said
According to Joe Maila, spokesman for the national Department of Health, "All the legislation will have penalty clauses."
The slogan "breast is best" has a significant amount of evidence to support it. So throughout the world and even in the context of HIV, government departments are promoting exclusive breastfeeding."
But, says Witten, the law has no teeth to curb the marketing of formula. "Companies might receive a strongly worded letter, but we can't build up a case without a proper monitoring and evaluation system."
Aspen had recently advertised infant formula in Sawubona magazine, and stores like Clicks and DisChem had also done so in their promotion brochures.
"This is against legislation. We need an independent consumer watchdog to protect the infant feeding arena from inappropriate marketing of infant formula," Witten said, adding that another common offence was moms of newborns being given discounted formula vouchers or samples.
Motshidisi Mokwena, spokeswoman for Nestlé which is the biggest infant formula producer in the country and has been at the centre of an international boycott of "unethical marketing", says "In all countries where the company operates, Nestlé adheres to national government regulations. Nestlé South Africa is therefore compliant with the South African regulations relating to foodstuffs for infants and young children."
But, says doctor Ingrid le Roux, director of the Philani Child Health and Nutrition Project in Khayelitsha, "It is staggering in this country how we struggle with breastfeeding and the kind of trust in formula that has been ingrained in people."
"Exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months is a priority of our national Ministry of Health," she said, "and breastfeeding takes patience and support.
In areas like Khayelitsha, she said, the mom goes home just a few hours after giving birth. This means that moms are "struggling with lots of issues and stress" and in the absence of support, they buy a tin of formula, then the baby rejects the breast - and in doing so, makes itself vulnerable to all types of infections.
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