Abbott Nutrition Webcast to Target Canadian Health Care Providers

Health care providers across Canada will be the target of an Abbott Nutrition webcast on Wednesday. The January 18th webcast, presented by doctors and scientists, will promote Abbott’s infant formula, focusing on two of its marketing gimmicks, prebiotics and lutein. See the press release below.

Let the organizers and presenters of the webcast know what you think about this flagrant violation of the WHO Code! Write an email letter or adapt INFACT’s sample letter.

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From INFACT Canada/IBFAN North America

Press Release

Canadian and International Voices Call on Abbott Formula Company to Immediately Cancel Marketing Webcasts to Health Professionals Across Canada

January 16, 2012

Members of the International Lactation Consultants Association, the International Baby Food Action Network, together with their Canadian counterparts are demanding that Abbott Nutrition cancel the infant formula marketing immediately.

Abbott is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and promoters of infant formula. Infants in Canada and around the world suffer illness, malnutrition and even death because of Abbott’s aggressive marketing, which is designed to persuade mothers to formula feed instead of breastfeed. Globally UN agencies note that at least 1.5 million babies die every year linked to artificial feeding practices. As the one of the world’s most aggressive formula marketers, Abbott bears much responsibility for this outrageous death toll.

The World Health Organization International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and relevant resolutions of the World Health Assembly have been adopted globally to curb the marketing excesses of the infant formula companies and safeguard infant health. The International Code has been fully endorsed by all UN Member States, including Canada. These provisions unequivocally state that health care systems and professionals should not be complicit in the marketing and promotion of artificial feeding products. Conflicts of interest, such as the webcast formula promotion to health care professionals by Abbott are explicitly prohibited.

By making health claims about their products, Abbott is misrepresenting their products and deceiving parents into thinking that the products are similar to breastmilk. Nothing can be further from the truth. The reality is not “prebiotics and lutein”, but dirty contaminated bottles, stinking diarrhea, babies screaming with pain from otitis media, babies separated from their mothers in pediatric wards with acute respiratory disease, damaged guts that morph into chronic lifelong conditions such as Crohn’s disease, more women dying of breast cancer, the cost and pain of living a life with diabetes and lives cut short because of cardiac disease and so on. The addition of more chemicals to infant formula in order to create marketing advantages can only contribute to more health damage from this chemical cocktail.

What Abbott does not tell parents is that its powdered formula may also be contaminated with the lethal microorganism Enterobacter sakazakii, which can result in sepsis, necrotizing enterocolitis, meningitis and even death. The WHO recommends that powdered formula be reconstituted at 70 degrees centigrade to kill E. sakazakii.

But these are not the only misleading claims Abbott makes to market its formula in Canada. Abbott claims its formula fats to be “closest to breast milk - to support your baby’s normal brain, and eye development”. These claims are unsubstantiated and designed to deceive parents into thinking the product is like breastmilk. Canada’s Food and Drugs Act prohibits such claims.

Full compliance of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and the subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions relating to infant and young child nutrition is the minimum standard for the marketing of infant formulas. Abbott must immediately cease these damaging promotions and withdraw from this deceptive and damaging webcast designed to use Canada’s health care professionals as marketing agents for formula feeding.

Elisabeth Sterken, nutritionist, BSc, MSc. Dt
Director INFACT Canada/IBFAN North America