Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fighting an Old Battle in a New World

This history of the baby food campaign is written by Annelies Allain, a founder-member of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), explaining the strategy employed to protect infants from the aggressive marketing practices of the baby food industry.

Our principal tools are the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions fo the World Health Assembly, which are included as an annex in the book.

Here is an extract from the foreword, written by Halfdan Mahler, Director General of the World Health Organisation for 15 years:

IBFAN has been a key player in the movement for greater - and more transparent - corporate responsibility and accountability, by continuing to keep the Code alive, by pushing WHO to keep it visible on its agenda. The Code is a reasonably sensitive and specific instrument to regulate a particular sector of industry, which has 'survived' the clarion call for putting Health First in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I believe that the only reason it did not wither away like many other splendid ideas of those days, is that it was adopted by IBFAN and nursed by them ever since. I am convinced that millions of babies have been saved by IBFAN's efforts to keep a watchful eye on corporate promotion.
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Annelies provides insight into the strategies that have helped to save lives and the efforts of the baby food industry to undermine our work, recalling key events through the history of the campaign.

Here is a sample:

Nestlé failed to turn up at the first hearing of the European Parliament's Development and Cooperation Committee in November 2000. The Committee had selected the food industry and clothing industry for starters in an effort to set EU Standards for European Enterprises operating in Developing Countries. Although Nestlé had initially welcomed this chance to put its case to the Parliament, it apparently changed its mind, maybe after hearing that IBFAN and UNICEF representatives would also be present. The hearing came on the heels of adverse publicity about Nestlé's unethical marketing practices in Pakistan. It seems likely that the company felt its reputation would be less damaged by its non-appearnace than by being required to answer embarassing questions about bribing doctors, setting sales targets and issuing threats to the whistleblower who denounced all this and provided hard evidence.
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