WHO guidance on infant milk formulas gets lukewarm backing
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA May 27 (Reuters) - National health officials stopped short on Friday of fully endorsing World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines to end the aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes and baby foods for newborn and older infants.
Activists said the consensus, hammered out in negotiations chaired by Ecuador, overcame resistance by dairy producers led by the United States, European Union and New Zealand.
But they said they feared that national health authorities will not feel obliged to implement the recommendations because the compromise language fell short of calling for applying the WHO guidelines clearly favouring breastfeeding for infants.
"We have a consensus resolution," Ecuadorian diplomat Martina Martinez told Reuters after the closed-door session. The statement is expected to be adopted by WHO's Assembly of 194 member states on Saturday.
The text "welcomes with appreciation" the WHO technical guidance but does not "endorse" it, as in an earlier draft, officials said.
The WHO guidelines, entitled "Guidance on ending the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children", say breast milk substitutes and milk products for infants from 6 to 36 months of age "should not be marketed".
They say all such products should include clearly visible label information "on the importance of continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond and the importance of not introducing complementary feeding before six months of age".
Worldwide sales of formula milks are estimated to be worth nearly $45 billion, with Nestle and Danone among the biggest distributors, activists say. Continuación...