Among the cuts just announced to federal advisory bodies was the Advisory Panel on the Marketing of Infant Formula in Australia (APMAIF). This panel has monitored adherence to the voluntary agreement between the Australian Government and the manufacturers and importers of infant formula in Australia since 1992. Although this agreement only partly implemented the terms of the 1981 International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (“WHO Code”), and subsequent related World Health Assembly resolutions, to which Australia is a signatory, it was at least a monitor.
That will this mean to parents in the future? Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand (LCANZ), the trans-Tasman professional body for International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, is concerned that the removal of this layer of monitoring potentially reduces the protection parents have at a time when they are most vulnerable, from the unethical marketing and advertising of infant-feeding products.
Successive Australian Governments have supported breastfeeding with the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010 – 2015 – PDF 3967 KB. The stated purpose of this strategy is “to contribute to improving the health, nutrition and wellbeing of infants and young children, and the health and wellbeing of mothers, by protecting, promoting, supporting and monitoring breastfeeding”. This aligns with the recommendations of the report from the 2012 session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child that the WHO Code is not at present effectively enforced in Australia, and to “establish a monitoring mechanism”.
Since the majority of Australian mothers begin breastfeeding, unrestricted marketing and advertising directed at them has the potential to confuse their decision. All mothers should receive objective, non-commercial information and advice from their health professional about feeding their babies especially mothers choosing or requiring infant formula.
With the sudden departure of APMAIF, it is timely to request government revisit the issue of effective monitoring. This could be done by amending the Trade Practices legislation to regulate the industry and advise the government, making it possible to implement the entire WHO Code. Our organisation is happy to provide advice on these matters.
Director of Professional and Political Advocacy
Lactation Consultants of Australia & New Zealand