WHO and UNICEF Global Congress Together Combating Risky Milk Formula Marketing


World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will organize the first Global Congress on the Implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in Geneva, Switzerland. Delegates from approximately 130 nations will gather to discuss and share expertise and strategies to put an end to the unethical marketing of breast-milk substitutes.

The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 1981. Forty-two years later, formula milk manufacturers continue to disregard these established norms and prioritize economic interests over the health of children and families. Subsequent WHA resolutions have frequently urged national governments to establish, monitor, and enforce the Code’s requirements.

Responses to WHO and UNICEF calls to action have been insufficient, emphasizing the need for tougher government controls. More than 70% of Member States have enacted legislation that implements at least some of the Code’s provisions,” said Dr Francesco Branca, WHO’s Director of Nutrition and Food Safety. “However, industries are still expanding to push an ever-expanding range of formula milk products on families, employing deceptive tactics to gain access to their networks and influence their decisions.” Parents have a right to unbiased information about newborn feeding, which is aggressively undermining by unethical commercial marketing.

Countries will share their experiences with the challenges they face in fully implementing the Code during the three-day Congress; develop national work plans to strengthen legislation, monitoring, and enforcement of its provisions; and build regional networks to share information and support national action. While the majority of countries have incorporated at least some parts of the Code in national laws and regulations, gaps and loopholes in the legislation frequently exist, allowing Code infractions to persist. The majority of countries lack active methods for monitoring marketing tactics, and enforcement provisions are often lax.

Many countries have improved their safeguards against unethical marketing of breast-milk substitutes in recent years. For example, in 2022, the Kenyan government responded to lobbying from food manufacturers by developing a monitoring system to discover legal infractions. WHO, UNICEF, and civil society partner organizations have developed a variety of tools to advocate for Code implementation, document the extent of formula milk marketing, evaluate current laws, develop monitoring systems, and strengthen Code enforcement, all while working to increase parents’ access to unbiased information on infant feeding and nutrition that is free of commercial influence.

More About World Health Organization (WHO)

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) responsible for international public health. It was established in 1948 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO’s primary objective is to promote the attainment of the highest possible level of health for all people worldwide. It plays a vital role in shaping global health policies, coordinating responses to health emergencies, providing technical assistance to countries, conducting research, and setting standards and guidelines for various health issues. The WHO works closely with governments, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders to address major health challenges and improve healthcare systems globally.

More About United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that focuses on promoting the rights and well-being of children worldwide. Established in 1946, UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories to provide humanitarian aid, support child health and nutrition, promote education, protect children from violence and exploitation, and advocate for the rights of every child.

UNICEF operates on the principle that every child deserves a fair chance in life, regardless of their background or circumstances. The organization works to ensure that children have access to essential services such as clean water, sanitation, healthcare, education, and protection from violence and exploitation. It collaborates with governments, civil society organizations, and other partners to implement programs and initiatives that address the specific needs of children and their communities.

In addition to its fieldwork, UNICEF conducts research, collects data, and provides technical assistance to governments to help shape policies and programs that benefit children. It also engages in emergency response efforts, providing life-saving assistance to children and families affected by conflicts, natural disasters, and other emergencies.

UNICEF relies on voluntary contributions from governments, individuals, businesses, and foundations to fund its programs and operations. Through its work, UNICEF strives to create a better world for every child, where they can grow, thrive, and reach their full potential.


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