Progressive Protection Policies for Pakistan
In September 2002, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf signed the Pakistan Ordinance. The document is intended to protect breastfeeding and ensure that baby food manufacturers are in compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.
The Ordinance is to be considered law and it outlines integral points of the Code for adoption. The distribution of samples to healthcare workers and mothers is prohibited and all educational materials concerning infant and young child feeding are to be approved by elected boards. Infant food labels must be in the local language and terms such as "materialized" and "humanized" are forbidden because of their latent suggestion that formula feeding is superior to breastfeeding. All labels must contain the disclaimer: "MOTHER'S MILK IS THE BEST FOR YOUR BABY AND HELPS IN PREVENTING DIARRHOEA AND OTHER ILLNESSES" in clear, bold lettering. Graphics can only be used if they provide directions for product use.
The Ordinance requires that the federal government establish a National Infant Feeding Board and Provincial Infant Feeding Committees. At least half of each board must be comprised of infant and young child nutrition professionals. Each board must also have at least one representative from the infant foods industry. This requirement is of some concern because it does not propose a limit to the number of industry representatives who may sit on the board.
The Ordinance neglects to endorse the World Health Organization's recommendation of six months of exclusive breastfeeding, followed by the introduction of complementary foods. This is another point of concern.
If the Ordinance hopes to be fully comprehensive, it needs some reworking. However, its adoption illustrates that the protection of breastfeeding is becoming an important issue in Pakistan. If this is to continue, all the essential points of the Code must be taken into account and implemented without fail.
In the final analysis, Pakistan must be commended on this important and noteworthy achievement, which is a step towards the best attainable health for infants and young children.
Raising the bar:
India sets even higher standards for breastfeeding protection
India's regulation of the marketing of infant formulas and infant foods is a model to aspire to. Although already exemplary, recently its parliament passed yet another amendment to improve its Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, which had been in effect since 1992.
The Amendment Bill is designed to erase certain loopholes of the existing Act that allowed infant food manufacturers a growing hold over advertising and health care workers. The Bill includes:
A ban on all advertisement of infant milk substitutes and infant foods intended for use for children under the age of two years. This ban puts a considerable damper on the infant food manufacturers methods of sale given that these companies use forceful advertising and free samples to reach mothers at an early point in motherhood.
A prohibition on infant food industry funding and sponsorships for any activities such as meetings and conferences where health care workers or their associations participate.
Combined with India's progressive infant feeding policies of exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for at least two years, these measures will further protect the rights and health of India's mothers and their children.
Spring 2003 Newsletters Contents