Firstly, many thanks to everyone who sent birthday wishes last week!
While having a kind of break, there were still things going on, not least because this is National Breastfeeding Awareness Week in the UK. There was a conference in London which Baby Milk Action attended on Monday. More about that later.
In the build up there was an article in the Independent on Sunday concerning the Members of Parliament that Nestlé took to South Africa in February. Regular readers of this blog will know that one of them, Tom Levitt MP, has since launched a campaign defending Nestlé practices in the country, which comes at a very sensitive time as the South African government is looking to strengthen regulations. It turns out one of the other MPs on the all-expenses-paid trip represents a UK Department of Health minister in Parliament. The Independent led on this in its article Breast vs bottle: the new battleground.
This opens: "Efforts to encourage more women to breastfeed are being threatened by "aggressive" lobbying directed at the Government by the baby milk manufacturing industry, campaigners warned yesterday. The powdered milk manufacturer Nestlé has forged formal links with the Department of Health and took a ministerial aide on an all-expenses-paid trip to South Africa, The Independent on Sunday has discovered."
There is a quote from me: "Time and again we see Nestlé trying to ingratiate itself with health workers and policymakers through gifts, free trips, sponsorship and so-called partnerships. Surely the Government should not look to companies to fund and organise trips such as this. If there is a legitimate public interest in fact-finding in South Africa, it should be publicly funded."
The article did present the issue as 'Breast v. Bottle', missing the point that we are working to protect breastfeeding and babies fed on formula. The introduction to a discussion board accompanying the article similarly missed the point, stating:
"The government is considering calls to ban the big baby milk firms from promoting follow-on formula. But companies like Nestle are mounting fierce lobbying campaigns targeting the Department of Health as well as mums. Should Nestle be allowed to advertise and mums make their own minds up? Or should Nestle be reined in so the government can promote the message that breast is best?"
I commented as follows. See: