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Health workers and the baby food industry

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 22 June 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1556
  1. R K Anand
  1. Senior paediatrician Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, 15 Dr G Deshmukh Marg, Mumbai 400 026, India

    World Health Organisation acts to end conflict of interest and promote breast feeding

    Recent reports about phthalates in infant formulas in Britain have revived interest in the possible dangers of breast milk substitutes and the need to promote breast feeding.1 While the British government tried to calm public fears, the World Health Organisation's governing body, the World Health Assembly, passed a resolution urging health institutions, professionals, and ministries in all member states to prevent the baby food industry from providing financial or other support for health workers.2 This resolution is likely to provide added strength to those committed to protecting, promoting, and supporting breast feeding. But what does it mean for the funding of health care and training; will it remove conflicts of interest; and can it be implemented?

    Breast feeding is important for infant health—for rich people as well as poor people.3 4 But poor people are especially at risk from inappropriate marketing of breast milk substitutes; as well as adding to infant mortality and morbidity, these products add further strain to the economy of already marginalised families and resource poor nations.

    Breast milk substitutes are big business. The global market in 1983 was estimated to be $3.3bn (£2200m)5 and in 1991 over $6bn (A Chetley, personal communication). For India, Prakash quoted a figure of £180m, growing at 6% per year. …

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