May 25, 2005
ACTION ALERT: Mead Johnson and the CJ Foundation for SIDS
The CJ Foundation for SIDS is an American not-for-profit agency that combats Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This is the tragic phenomenon experienced by thousands of parents each year that sees babies under one year of age die from unexplained causes. It has come to INFACT Canada’s attention that since 1999, the CJ Foundation has had a partnership with formula giant Mead Johnson. In order to promote their formula brand, Mead Johnson distributes diaper bags to new parents in American hospitals (a violation of the International Code), and in conjuction with the CJ Foundation, they attach tags to the packages explaining how to limit the chances of SIDS. Upwards of 2.5 million American parents receive these bags every year. It is highly perplexing that the CJ Foundation would engage in such a partnership because it is widely acknowledged that formula feeding your baby increases the risk of SIDS! This fact is asserted by numerous health agencies, including the CJ Foundation itself (see its website at www.cjsids.com).
Allying itself with a formula company sends mixed messages to parents, and is a tacit endorsement of a practice which contributes to the sydrome it is trying to fight. The only winner in this scenario is Mead Johnson, while infants and parents are left to pay the myriad health costs associated with not breastfeeding. Please send a message to the CJ Foundation that these actions are counter-productive and endanger the health of infants. Forward INFACT Canada’s attached letter or send your own to Barry A Bornstein, Executive Director of the CJ Foundation for SIDS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 25, 2005
Barry A. Bornstein
CJ Foundation for
Dear Mr. Bornstein:
It has come to our attention that the CJ Foundation for SIDS has entered into a partnership with Mead Johnson in order to “raise awareness of SIDS.” We at INFACT Canada fail to see how it is not a conflict of interest for an organization dedicated to the protection of infant health to form an alliance with a formula company, especially an organization such as yours which is combatting SIDS. Numerous studies have shown, and even your own website reports, that using formula and not breastfeeding babies increases the risk of SIDS. It is distressing that you would join forces with a company that profits by the undermining of breastfeeding, and thus contributes to the very syndrome that you are trying to prevent.
This partnership is all the more alarming because it appears that you have allowed Mead Johnson to dictate the advice you give to mothers and in doing so have placed the interests of the company over the welfare of those you are trying to protect. While your website states the widely accepted assertion that breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS, the tags on the diaper bags that you distribute in conjuction with Mead Johnson apparently omit this fact. Furthermore, any pro-breastfeeding message which you send to the public will certainly be diluted by the fact that you are simultaneously tacitly endorsing formula feeding through this partnership, necessarily at the expense of breastfeeding and the health of infants and young children.
Your policy of assisting Mead Johnson in distributing diaper bags to new parents is a violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, which was adopted by the World Health Organisation in 1981 in order to protect the health of infants the world over. Article 5.4 of the International Code states:
Manufacturers and distributors should not distribute to
pregnant women or mothers of infants and young children any
gifts of articles or utensils which may promote the use of breastmilk
substitutes or bottle feeding.
Article 6.3 states:
Facilities of health care systems should not be used…for the
distribution of material provided by a manufacturer or distributor
[of breast-milk substitutes].
The distribution of Mead Johnson promotional materials to 2.7 million new parents annually through American hospitals is a clear violation of these articles. In aiding this action, your foundation is assisting in the undermining of the International Code, of breastfeeding, and ultimately of infant health.
We at INFACT Canada recognize the importance of protecting the health of the youngest members of society, and realize that combatting SIDS is an integral part of this effort. We are also aware of the difficulties facing not-for-profit agencies, and the temptation that financial offers from the private sector represent. However, formula companies’ interests are fundamentally at odds with those of groups seeking to promote the health of infants, and any partnership which furthers their profit-seeking efforts is compromising and even dangerous. If babies are to be protected from SIDS and other dangers, breastfeeding must be promoted as the standard, and must not be allowed to be subverted by companies that have their own interests at heart.
National Director, BSc, MSc, Nutritionist