Most experts agree: breastfeeding is best for mother and child., However, manufacturers of baby food apparently want to tell parents and doctors otherwise., As a study by the World Health Organization shows, manufacturers are manipulating young mothers and health workers with reprehensible marketing methods.
- Most experts agree: breastfeeding is best for mother and child. However, manufacturers of baby food apparently want to tell parents and doctors something else. As a study by the World Health Organization shows, manufacturers manipulate young mothers and health workers with reprehensible marketing methods.
The World Health Organization (WHO) accuses manufacturers of baby food of "unscrupulous marketing" that specifically unsettles pregnant women and young mothers. The manufacturers manipulated parents and health workers, according to a study by the WHO and the UN children's fund Unicef on Wednesday. Misleading or scientifically unfounded claims are made to trick mothers into giving babies formula instead of breast milk.
According to the study, the industry was worth 55 billion dollars (48 billion euros) in 2019. While the breastfeeding rate has increased slightly over the past 20 years, the sales of infant food manufacturers have almost doubled in the same period. There are around half a dozen large companies, said Nigel Rollins, who is responsible for mother and child health at the WHO, the German Press Agency. Their practices are similar. Individual companies are not named.
Nestlé stops advertising babies under the age of six months worldwide
One of the largest baby food manufacturers is the Swiss group Nestlé. When asked, he said that the company is already not advertising food for babies under the age of twelve months in 163 countries. By the end of the year, all advertising worldwide for baby food up to the age of six months will be stopped. "Nestlé supports the adoption of baby food marketing laws in all countries," the company said. Only 25 countries have largely implemented the 1981 code of conduct on the marketing of baby food, the WHO reported in 2020. Germany is not one of them.
The WHO is not about banning baby food from the store shelves, emphasized Rollins. Some babies needed this food. The study is only about marketing methods that manipulate mothers who actually wanted and could breastfeed. "Is the birth of a child really a matter for commercial business?" Rollins said. The study compares the marketing of infant formula with that of tobacco or gambling, "where sales take precedence over the health and development of the child," it says.
Aggressive marketing of baby food
Companies started or infiltrated mothers' groups on social media to promote baby formula, the study said. Health workers are provided with dubious information at conferences or through brochures, which they often pass on to mothers: for example, that babies with infant formula sleep longer, that breast milk deteriorates over time or that certain products can prevent allergies. Sometimes they received a commission from companies when they recruited clients.
According to the WHO, 100 percent breastfeeding for the first few months of life has lifelong health benefits. Among other things, this reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and breast cancer in the mother.
The study surveyed 8,500 pregnant women and young mothers and 300 health workers in eight countries: Bangladesh, China, United Kingdom, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa and Vietnam. 51 percent of those surveyed stated that they had received advertising, for example on social media or in clinics. In Bangladesh, 57 percent of mothers said health workers had recommended formula for them, in Nigeria 45 percent and in the UK 30 percent. © dpa