Most countries lack adequate laws to protect and promote breastfeeding

UN News Centre

Laws to protect breastfeeding against the growing multi-billion-dollar breast-milk substitute business are inadequate in most countries, exposing small children to a greater risk of childhood diseases, according to a United Nations report released today.

The 2016 status report, Marketing of breast-milk substitutes: National implementation of the International Code, shows that of the 194 countries analyzed, 135 have in place some form of legal measure related to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes (the Code) and subsequent, relevant resolutions adopted by the World Health Assembly.

The Code calls on countries to protect breastfeeding by stopping the inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes, including infant formula, feeding bottles and teats. It bans all forms of promotion of substitutes, including advertising, gifts to health workers and distribution of free samples.

“Mothers deserve a chance to get the correct information: that they have readily available the means to protect the health and wellbeing their children. Clever marketing should not be allowed to fudge the truth that there is no equal substitute for a mother’s own milk.”

Overall, richer countries lag behind poorer ones. The proportion of countries with comprehensive legislation in line with the Code is highest in the Southeast Asia Region at 36 per cent, followed by Africa at 30 per cent while Europe has the lowest rate at six per cent.

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