|Babies might face risks of diarrhoea, upset stomachs, eczema, ear infections and reduced IQ if they are not breastfed, but adverstisement for breast-milk sustitutes fail to mention these health drawbacks. — VNA/VNS Photo Phuong Vy
HA NOI (VNS)— Advertising cons many parents into thinking that powdered milk and other nutritional supplements are better for babies than breast milk.
This was said by Deputy Director of the Health Ministry's Legislation Department Le Viet Huong at a two-day international workshop yesterday in Ha Noi.
The Law on Advertisement implemented in January bans companies from promoting breast-milk substitutes for children under 24 months and complementary food for children under 6 months.
But according to Huong, these products are still advertised heavily – in large part because inspections have not been frequent or strict enough.
Moreover, the deputy director added, the fine of VND3-10 million (US$150-500) is not enough to deter violators.
Several inconsistencies remain between that law and a Government decree issued in 2006, which upcoming amendments will eliminate.
The sentence "this product is not formula and cannot replace breast milk" will be added to advertising for complementary food for children from 6-12 months and stricter quality, hygiene and safety standards will go into effect, he said.
Companies will also have to provide instructions on the products' correct usage.
David Clark, Legal Officer at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that only 29 per cent of babies in the East Asia and Pacific Region are exclusively breastfed at five months of age.
Not breastfeeding a baby could cause diarrhoea, eczema, ear infections and reduced IQ scores, he cautioned.
The International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, adopted in 1981, gave governments a basis to take legislative action against companies promoting these goods, said Clark.
The baby food industry is worth US$37 billion globally, of which the Asia-Pacific area accounts for up to 37 per cent, according to Euromonitor International.
At the workshop, Viet Nam and 14 regional countries also discussed adopting stronger laws on infant and young child feeding both in ASEAN and beyond. — VNS