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International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes

© UNICEF/HQ-093-0986/Toutounji
A mother breastfeeds the younger of her two children seated on the steps of their house, in the region of Iklim El Teffah in southern Lebanon.

The World Health Assembly adopted the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in 1981 to protect and promote breastfeeding, through the provision of adequate information on appropriate infant feeding and the regulation of the marketing of breastmilk substitutes, bottles and teats. In subsequent years additional resolutions have further defined and strengthened the Code.

The code stipulates that there should be absolutely no promotion of breastmilk substitutes, bottles and teats to the general public; that neither health facilities nor health professionals should have a role in promoting breastmilk substitutes; and that free samples should not be provided to pregnant women, new mothers or families. All governments should adopt the Code into national legislation. Since 1981, 84 countries have enacted legislation implementing all or many of the provisions of the Code and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly resolutions.  In addition, 14 countries have draft laws awaiting adoption. The latest update of the state of the code by country provides an overview of all countries. UNICEF is working with legislators and lawyers to ensure the Code and maternity protection laws are implemented in more countries.

Here are some of the innovative strategies developed to implement the Code:

In Iran, the Government has taken control of the import and sale of breastmilk substitutes. Formula is available only by prescription, and the tins must carry a generic label - no brand names, pictures or promotional messages are allowed.

In India, legislation requires that tins of infant formula carry a conspicuous warning about the potential harm caused by artificial feeding, placed on the central panel of the label.

In Papua New Guinea, the sale of feeding bottles, cups, teats and dummies is strictly controlled, and there is a ban on advertising these products as well as breastmilk substitutes.

If you are interested in establishing or strengthening the Code in your country, please contact your National Breastfeeding Committee, your local UNICEF office, or UNICEF National Committee.



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