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The Philippine Milk Code And Why It's Important to Mothers and Children

Medically reviewed by Rubilyn Saldana-Santiago, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 14, 2022

The Philippine Milk Code And Why It's Important to Mothers and Children

During emergencies and natural disasters, concerned individuals are quick to respond to the victims’ needs. They readily donate food, water, medicines, and toiletries. Sometimes, they even distribute milk formula to families with babies, knowing they might not have enough to purchase them yet. But did you know that giving away formula milk — even with pure intentions — is prohibited by the milk code? Here’s what the milk code of the Philippines entails and what it means for parents and children. 

What Is the Milk Code of the Philippines?

The Milk Code or Executive Order 51 (EO 51), also known as the National Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, Breastmilk Supplements, and Other Related Products, aims to promote and protect breastfeeding. It also wants families to receive adequate and accurate information, so they can properly use breast milk substitutes and supplements. 

As such, the Milk Code doesn’t just regulate the quality of breastmilk substitutes and supplements. They also regulate the companies’ marketing strategies and materials.  

“Breastmilk substitutes and supplements” are products that serve as a partial or total replacement of breastmilk. These include infant formula, feeding bottles, and teats. 

Other milk products, foods and beverages, and complementary foods — when marketed or represented to be suitable as partial or total breastmilk substitutes, with or without modifications — are also regulated by the Milk Code. 

Why The Milk Code Is Important

Breast milk is best for babies. The Milk Code supports this fact by regulating the behavior of companies involved in breastmilk substitutes and supplements. And by doing so, it helps to ensure that mothers turn to breastfeeding first when it comes to feeding their baby — and stay with breastfeeding in the crucial early months of a child’s life.

It is also important because it holds people and companies accountable for the distribution of the product and information related to it. For instance, milk manufacturers would often boast about their milk having important nutrients for brain development, but might not inform you that the powder is not a sterile product and is associated with bacterial contamination. 

Another overlooked information is the temperature of water for milk formula preparation. Most parents and caregivers use boiled water, but they cool it down too much, afraid of hurting their babies. However, experts say the water should be no cooler than 70°C to kill harmful bacteria that may be present in the powder2.

Violations Under the Milk Code of the Philippines3

Below are some of the violations under E0 51:

1. Misleading and False Nutritional Claims

For instance, the law prohibits saying that formula milk is the “best way” to start life. Remember, breast milk is the best for babies. 

2. Advertisements Containing Pictures of Child or Babies with Relatives

Ads are regulated so as not to encourage families to purchase breast milk substitutes and supplements. 

3. Gifts

Under the Milk Code, companies, manufacturers, representatives, and distributors of products covered by the law may not give any sort of gift.  These gifts include financial, personal, or commercial rewards, incentives, and favors given directly or indirectly, with or without logo, company name, or brand name. 

For example, giving away samples of products covered by EO 51 is prohibited, as free trial of a product can influence mothers to stop breastfeeding.

4. Promotion by Healthcare Workers or Facilities

Companies should not use healthcare facilities to distribute, disseminate, or promote breast milk substitutes and supplements. 

For instance, there must be no posters or any form of advertisement in clinics or hospitals. 

5. Donations

Finally, one of the things that are not allowed under the Milk Code is the provision of breast milk substitutes and supplements during donation drives. Companies or representatives should never use emergencies to promote or distribute their products. 

Doing so puts the babies at risk, especially since disaster-stricken areas typically do not have access to clean water. Likewise, receiving milk donations might also unintentionally change some families’ minds about exclusive breastfeeding. 

Violations of the EO 51 are punishable by law. Individuals may face up to a year of imprisonment or up to a PHP30,000 fine. Healthcare workers may even face revocation of their licenses. Of course, there are also significant repercussions for companies who violate this law. 

Key Takeaways

Breast milk is the best for babies. It contains all the nutrients your baby needs until they are ready for solid food and beyond. As such, the Philippine Milk Code regulates the quality of breastmilk substitutes and supplements, as well as the manufacturers’ marketing strategies, to protect the health of our children. 

Learn more about Breastfeeding here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Rubilyn Saldana-Santiago, MD


Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 14, 2022

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