Joint press statement on breast milk substitutes
Ha Noi, 26 September 2013 - WHO, UNICEF and ‘Alive and Thrive’ are very concerned about the labeling and marketing of milk products for infants and young children currently on sale in Viet Nam. Currently, the price of breast milk substitutes products is a controversial and hot issue in the mass media in Vietnam. Not only are they being sold at vastly inflated prices, but the health of Vietnamese children is potentially at risk.
By incorrectly renaming breast milk substitutes products as “complementary food” or “nutrition products”, make them fall outside the regulatory authority of the Ministry of Finance.
At the same time, this labeling issue affects the implementation of the Law on Advertisement which came into force in January of this year, which bans advertisement of breast milk substitutes for children up to 2 years.
Use of these terms is highly confusing for consumers, and distracts from the global evidence base that provides clear recommendations for infant and young child feeding. WHO and UNICEF maintain that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. From the age of 6 months, breast milk remains the most appropriate liquid part of a progressively diversified diet for the vast majority of children between 6 and 24 months of age, once complementary feeding has begun.
WHO warns that specially formulated milks or so-called ‘follow-up milks’ are not necessary, and even unsuitable when used as a breast-milk replacement. Current formulations lead to higher protein intake and lower intake of essential fatty acids, iron, zinc and B vitamins than those recommended by WHO for adequate growth and development of infants and young children.
In Viet Nam wrongly labeling formula milk as “complementary foods” has already caused considerable confusion. “Complementary feeding” refers to the period when breastmilk alone is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of infants and young children, and other foods and liquids are needed, along with breastmilk. Simply because a product is fed during the complementary feeding period between 6 and 24 months, as in the case of ‘follow-up’ formula, does not mean it is a complementary food.
Therefore to safeguard the health and development of Vietnamese children, WHO, UNICEF, and Alive & Thrive strongly recommend that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance in Viet Nam classify ‘follow-up’ formulas correctly as milk products. This would ensure that they will be subject to price control and covered by marketing restrictions as contained in the International Code on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
We are one behind the leadership of the Government of Viet Nam in protecting, and promoting and supporting breastfeeding for the best interest of the children, mothers, communities, and the entire nation.
Further information: WHO issued a statement in July of this year with a recommendation on why follow-up formulas should be considered within the scope of the Breast Milk Substitute Code.
For more information, please contact
Susan Mackay | UN Communication Manager | One UN Communications Team
Tel: +84 4 38224383 | Mob: 0913901405 | Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Lotta Sylwander, Representative | UNICEF Viet Nam
Tel: +84 4 39425706 - 11 Ext. 232 | Email: email@example.com
Dr. Lincetto, Dr Ornella | Technical Officer (MPS/CAH)
Mobile: 0914366245 | Email: LincettoOr@wpro.who.int
Ms. Nguyen Viet Lan | UN Communication Office
Tel : 04 38224383 ext 121 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org