Women of the ELCA executive director Linda Post Bushkofsky is among several leaders who signed a letter last week demanding six of the largest baby formula manufacturers stop “unethical and irresponsible” marketing of breast milk substitutes.
“It is important that Women of the ELCA take a stand on this issue. Actions taken at our triennial conventions speak to ending world hunger, caring for children and supporting the 1,000 Days project,” Bushkofsky said. “We also stand on the shoulders of Lutheran women who boycotted products of the Nestle Company and its subsidiary organizations in the 1970s and 1980s on this baby formula issue.”
1,000 Days, a non-profit that promotes good nutrition between a woman’s pregnancy and the baby’s second birthday, drafted the letter. It calls on the formula manufacturers to desist from “unethical and irresponsible marketing of breast milk substitutes” and to “fully comply with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent resolutions.”
Additional signatories include the American Academy of Nursing, Bread for the World, Global Health Advocates, Helen Keller International, Mercy Corps and Save the Children UK. The letter and complete list of signatories is found in a 1,000 Days news update. (You can sign the petition and tell infant formula companies to stop putting their private profits before the health of moms and babies here.)
baby formula surfaces at World Health Assembly
The letter comes on the heels of a U.S. administration attempt to halt the introduction of a resolution that encouraged breast-feeding and responsible marketing of baby formula at the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly in Geneva in May.
The resolution said that a mother’s milk is healthier for a child than breast milk substitutes. The resolution also sought to restrain marketing efforts by infant formula manufacturers, calling on manufacturers to fully comply with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. That code was established as one outcome of the Nestle boycott of the 1970s and 1980s.
“The $70 billion (infant formula) industry, which is dominated by a handful of American and European companies, has seen sales flatten in wealthy countries in recent years, as more women embrace breast-feeding,” according to a July 8 New York Times article.
The letter signed by Bushkofsky and others is being sent to the chief executive officers of six baby formula-making companies: Nestle, Danone, Abbott, RB/Mead Johnson, Friesland Campina and Kraft Heinz.
The letter asks that the companies “immediately cease from lobbying or using other means to undermine global efforts to protect breastfeeding.”
At the World Health Assembly the U.S. administration threatened trade sanctions against several small countries, like Ecuador, that planned to bring the resolution forward. Eventually, Russia introduced the resolution and it was adopted in slightly modified form.
Read the New York Times story.
Meeting requested, answers sought
In a related effort, Bushkofsky also signed on to a recent letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, requesting a meeting with Department leadership to understand the actions taken by the U.S. administration at the World Health Assembly, actions that appeared to undermine 40 years of U.S. policy and commitment.
Terri Lackey is director for communication. Photo by National Institute of Korean Language via Wikimedia Commons.