International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes
In 1981, the WHO set up the code to try and regulate the industry. Scandals in the 1970s saw Nestle accused of discouraging mothers from breastfeeding. The WHO still recommends exclusive breastfeeding for newborns as the healthier option.
In 2011, suboptimal breastfeeding was associated with over a million deaths each year and 10% of the global disease burden in children. Inappropriate advertising of formula and violations of the code have always been discouraged. The WHO notes that breastfeeding is the most effective way of preventing child mortality worldwide.
Formula milk and tobacco are the only two products that require international guidelines to regulate marketing.
Findings of the Study
To date, only 25 countries have fully implemented the code into legislation. Sales of formula milk have more than doubled while breastfeeding rates have only slightly increased over the past 40 years. The formula milk industry is now worth more than $55 billion annually.
The WHO report notes that more than half of the 8,500 parents across the countries surveyed reported exposure to marketing. The countries were Bangladesh, China, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. The marketing violated the code.