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Overdiagnosis and industry influence: how cow’s milk protein allergy is extending the reach of infant formula manufacturers

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k5056 (Published 05 December 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k5056

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Re: Overdiagnosis and industry influence: how cow’s milk protein allergy is extending the reach of infant formula manufacturers

The RCPCH wishes to correct the below statement, which is inaccurate:

"The RCPCH accepts funding from Danone and Nestlé, two of the largest formula manufacturers, but according to its website it will only accept advertising or conference stands providing information about specialist formulas, not breastmilk substitutes."

The RCPCH due diligence policy states that any sponsorship or presence at our annual conference or events will only involve specialist formulas. Specialist formulas are breast milk substitutes. We acknowledge that this could be better clarified on our website, and we will do so to state that we will not accept advertising or conference stands promoting standard breast milk substitutes.

In relation to education and research projects, our policy states that there will be no involvement by the donor in the selection of topics, choice of speakers, programme content, or actual spend of funds.

In order for the RCPCH to accept funding, organisations must meet relevant Codes of Practice or show demonstrable commitment to working towards meeting them and demonstrate willingness to share information on breaches of the relevant Codes, including violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Organisations must also provide a reasonable explanation should any inconsistencies be identified between information provided by them and information obtained by the RCPCH. Specialist formulas are not exempt from the WHO code, but contact with “non-state actors’ (in this case the formula milk industry) is permissible under the 2016 amendment to the Code.

The RCPCH consulted with members about the College’s relationship with Formula Milk Companies (FMCs) in 2016. The vast majority of respondents said they felt the RCPCH should accept funding from FMCs and allow them to advertise at conferences and events – but only with a robust set of safeguards in place.

Over the last year, we’ve been working with the major FMCs, and so far Danone and Nestle have met the due diligence criteria. The procedures and policies of both companies will continued to be reviewed by the RCPCH, as will our work with them to further improve the marketing of their infant formula milk products. Discussions will continue with the other companies who are yet to meet our due diligence criteria.

Competing interests: No competing interests

06 December 2018
RCPCH Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Royal College
London