Monday, 18 August 2014

Milk and bullshit

In an early reaction to Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics, Rocky picked up on the politics of breastfeeding. It alarmed me to see Fonterra linked to a campaign to denigrate breastfeeding, so I asked them about it on twitter.
After a couple of less than fulsome replies, Fonterra eventually came up with this.
which pleased and satisfied me until this happened
Which made me angry enough to go digging....

It turns out that the Philippines Department of Health issued a memorandum 
prohibiting multinational firms that manufacture infant milk and other nutrition products in the country from using registered trademarks that may erode the efforts of the government to promote breast-feeding
That could sound a bit rough - trampling on trademarked IP. But the court found it lawful and in line with Health Department's the duty to impose
reasonable regulation of an industry which affects pubic health and welfare
The background is interesting and relevant. It seems that the trademarks in question include dodgy material, so the Health Department sought a ban on
the use of trademarks that contain health and nutrition claims that may undermine breast-feeding and breastmilk on the labels of infant formula
This was particularly concerning given the results of a recent survey 
Based on the data, only 34 percent of Filipino infants less than six months of age exclusively breast-feed, thus, leading to under nutrition. It attributed the weak breast-feeding culture to the manufacturers and distributors of infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes that have taken undue advantage of the loopholes in existing laws relative to breast-feeding and infant and young-child feeding. 
.....milk companies are able to glamorize infant formula and breastmilk substitutes through false health claims and other attractive marketing strategies that are deemed to undermine breast-feeding.
There is a sizable market for infant formula that I'd be happy supplying. Sometimes it is needed and sometimes it is just convenient. But it seems wrong and nasty to be promoting infant formula to a mass market, particularly if you're smuggling your messages in through trademarked images.

The Philippines infant formula suppliers' club IPNAP (which includes Fonterra) opposed this memorandum, provoking the court case which it lost. This action alone seems in stark conflict with to the WHO-sponsored International Code of Conduct of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, to which IPNAP pays lip service.

So what the hell is going on? Is Fonterra feeding us bullshit? Does it have systems in place that actively monitor its obligations under the International Code? Where does it report on that monitoring? We need some answers.

1 comment:

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