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UNICEF and WHO welcome South Africa’s new regulations on infant foods

Pretoria, 10 December 2012 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) welcome last week’s publication by the Government of South Africa of the Regulations Relating to Foodstuffs for Infants and Young Children, based on the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and World Health Assembly Resolutions.

The new regulations promote and support breastfeeding as the best infant feeding option and protect parents and health professionals from aggressive or inappropriate marketing of breast milk substitutes such as formula milk, milk-like drinks and teas specifically marketed as a suitable product for infants and young children.

Since its adoption in 1981 by the World Health Assembly, the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes has been in effect on a voluntary basis in South Africa. Nevertheless, violations of the Code by the infant food industry have been consistently reported in the country.

“These regulations are an important step towards increasing South Africa’s rate of exclusive breastfeeding, which is still too low,” said UNICEF Representative Aida Girma.

Promotion, support and protection of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life, and continued breastfeeding until the child is two years old, are high-impact public health interventions that are internationally recognised to optimise child survival.

Breastfeeding saves lives by protecting babies from diarrhoea and pneumonia – the biggest killers of infants and children in South Africa – and is strongly associated with improved development and educational achievement. Babies do not need liquids other than breast milk in the first 6 months as breast milk contains all the water and nutrients a baby needs.

While South Africa has committed to actively supporting breastfeeding, lack of understanding of the benefits of breastfeeding among the population, compounded by fears of HIV transmission, among other factors, has hindered progress to promote and support breastfeeding in the country.

“South Africa’s new regulations are in accordance with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent World Health Assembly Resolutions; and will contribute significantly towards child survival through the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding,” said WHO Representative Dr. Sarah Barber.

The new regulations under the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972 (Act No.54 of 1972) are designed to remove commercial pressures from the infant feeding arena to ensure that all parents receive independent and objective information about infant feeding and to ensure that all mothers who wish to breastfeed are supported.

For more information, please contact:

Thierry Delvigne-Jean, Chief: Communication & Partnerships, UNICEF; Tel: 012 354 8201; tdelvignejean@unicef.org

 

 

 

 

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