Manila, October 10, 2007 – After its initial reading, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Philippines is delighted with yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to lift the temporary restraining order on the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations (RIRR) of the National Milk Code (EO51). UNICEF believes the ruling is a significant victory for infant, young child and maternal health in the Philippines.
With this ruling, infant formula manufacturers will be prevented from making false or exaggerated health claims about their products, and all advertising and marketing practices will be strictly regulated by a vastly strengthened Inter Agency Committee that monitors the Milk Code. The ruling also upholds the Department of Health’s authority to regulate advertising of all products covered by the International Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
Notably, the Supreme Court upheld Section 16 of the RIRR which states that “All health and nutrition claims for products within the scope of this Code are absolutely prohibited.” This signals an end to the un-ethical advertising claims that infant formulas increase intelligence – a strategy that has been particularly successful in undermining efforts to promote breastfeeding.
In addition, promotional tactics such as donation of products, marketing in the guise of seminars for health workers, giving of gifts to health workers, use of health care facilities for promotions, etc., will be banned. All infant formula labeling will have to comply with stringent new guidelines intended to help parents to understand that powdered milk substitutes for breastmilk are not sterile and can contain “pathogenic micro-organisms.”
Now the crucial work of educating families and communities about the vastly superior benefits of breastfeeding can proceed without having to compete with billion peso marketing schemes based on false health claims about infant formula brands.
UNICEF wishes to acknowledge the unwavering efforts of a broad alliance of actors in the Philippines and abroad – including the Department of Health, the Philippines Congress, the World Health Organization, Arugaan, Children for Breastfeeding and other breastfeeding advocates – who have helped inform the public about this vital public health issue.
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