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The WHO Code Advocacy Project

All families deserve to make informed decisions about feeding their baby based on objective factual information free from confusing and exploitative marketing.

ABA is calling on the Australian Government to legislate the WHO Code in full with funding for monitoring and enforcement of strong penalties. 

Why is marketing regulation important?

Families want what’s best for their baby, the industry wants what’s best for their bottom line. They want convince families to buy their formula. Whether that's in competition with breastmilk or another formula brand. 

Australian Standards say that any ingredient that is independently proven to be of nutritional value for babies must be put in all formula therefore a formula brand claiming they have a special ingredient is just marketing. 

A recent report from WHO/UNICEF found that formula milk marketing

  • Uses tactics so discrete parents might not even be aware they are the target of marketing.  
  • Exploits parents' anxieties and aspirations. Including claiming products can solve common infant problems such as sleep or colic when their is no scientific proof.

  • Aggressively harvests data to target women with online marketing including using data women provide to parenting apps to get to women when they are most vulnerable.

The industry targets families to maximise profits at the expense of informed decision making and public health. 

The WHO Code empowers all families by stopping confusing and exploitative marketing of breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles and teats.

What are the main elements of the WHO Code?

The WHO Code explicitly states that breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles and teats should be available but not promoted.

  • Companies should have no direct or indirect contact with pregnant women and mothers of babies and young children.This includes any type of advertising, discount promotions, special displays, samples, gifts and sponsorship of parenting clubs.

  • Outlines expectations that health professionals do not have a role in promoting breastmilk substitutes, or bottles and teats (this does not prevent individual education on safe use of formula).

  • Establishes clear rules around industry engagement with healthcare workers and the healthcare system. Including preventing free or discounted products or items that promote breastmilk substitutes being provided to pregnant women, new mothers, or health facilities. 

  • Sets standards of ethical behaviour for industry employees, including prohibiting the calculaion of bonuses based on sales of formula milk, bottles or teats. 

  • Ensures clear labeling, including the benefits of breastfeeding, health risks to infants who are formula fed (or who are not exclusively breastfed) and instructions on how to use formula, bottle and teats to minimise the risks of use. 

  • Prohibits pictures or text that idealise the use of breastmilk substitutes. 

  • Clearly states the expectation that governments are responsible for ensuring objective and consistent information is available to all those involved in infant and young child feeding.

What is a breastmilk substitute?

Breastmilk substitutes include any milks (or products that could be used to replace milk such of fortified soy milk), which are specifically marketed for feeding children up to the age of 3 years, including follow-up formula and growing-up milks.

The WHO Code also seeks to prevent inappropriate promotion of foods and drinks as being suitable for feeding a baby during the first 6 months of life when exclusive breastfeeding is recommended.

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The WHO Code FAQs

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The WHO Code in detail

WHO UNICEF REPORT

Report: Impact of Formula Milk Marketing

WHO UNICEF Digital Marketing

Report: Formula Milk Digital Marketing