MAKATI CITY, 4 May 2005 - An
increasing number of Filipino mothers are using breastmilk
substitutes because of the mistaken notion that these are
good for their babies. United Nations Children’s Fund
(UNICEF) noted this after a hearing of the Senate Committee
on Health chaired by Senator Pia Cayetano on the implementation
of Executive Order (EO) 51 or the National Code of Marketing
of Breastmilk Substitutes.
“Filipino parents buy breastmilk substitutes in all
good faith, thinking that they are doing the best for their
children,” Dr Nicholas Alipui, UNICEF Country Representative
to the Philippines, said.
“This is the result of the massive penetration of marketing
strategies to glorify and portray breastmilk substitutes to
ordinary people as safe and reliable substitutes.” Dr
Alipui added, “But in fact, they are bad and dangerous
Breastmilk substitutes are any food being marketed or represented
as a partial or total replacement for breastmilk.
UNICEF cited the following dangers of breastmilk substitutes:
• Breastmilk substitutes cause deaths among children.
In the first two months of life, an infant who receives infant
formula is up to 25 times more likely to die from diarrhea
and four times more likely to die from pneumonia than an exclusively
breastfed baby. The World Health Organization estimates that
20 per cent of infant deaths in the Philippines can be traced
• Infants who are formula-fed experience more severe
respiratory tract illness and require more hospitalization
than infants who are exclusively breastfed. Acute respiratory
infections are among the leading causes of deaths among infants
and children in the Philippines.
• Infant formula is sometimes intrinsically contaminated
or becomes contaminated during preparation, leading to illnesses
and deaths. Specific brands of infant formula have been recalled
from the market due to contamination with enterobacter sakazaii,
salmonella, and other bacteria. Contamination can also take
place when feeding bottles, artificial nipples and water are
not properly sterilized during milk preparation.
• Other dangers. The use of infant formula has also
been linked to a host of other diseases and disadvantages,
such as: asthma; allergies; lower IQ and cognitive skills;
childhood cancers; Type 1 diabetes (during childhood and later
in life); cardiovascular disease; obesity; gastrointestinal
infections; ear infections; and, exposure to environmental
contaminants (whereas breastmilk counteracts the adverse effects
In contrast, advertisements and other marketing materials
for breastmilk substitutes tout these as being nutritious
and even producing child prodigies – a violation of
the National Breastmilk Code.
The Code, enacted by then President Corazon Aquino in 1986,
prohibits the idealization and glorification of breastmilk
substitutes in marketing campaigns.
It also bans point-of-sale advertising, giving of samples,
and other promotions directly to consumers, health institutions,
and personnel in the health care system.
“Our recent survey among urban mothers in the National
Capital Region showed that milk companies, with their slick
advertising campaigns, have penetrated the minds of young
mothers, leading them to think that it is safe and even desirable
to give their babies these milk formulas,” Dr Alipui
The survey of 120 mothers in Manila, Pasay and Quezon City
showed that mothers were influenced more by television ads
and the lofty claims of milk companies rather than by affordability.
Alipui said, “Worse, these ads have undermined the
mothers’ confidence in being able to provide their babies
with the perfect food that is also a medicine, immunity booster,
IQ enhancer, environment-friendly and most of all, free.”