One of the reasons we and our partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) monitor the baby food industry is to provide information to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Governments that have signed up to the Convention of the Rights of the Child are required to submit a progress report about every five years. Citizens' organisations can do the same and we do so through the Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) and the Geneva Infant Feeding Association (GIFA - a partner in IBFAN).
The UK submitted evidence recently and the Committee issued its report on 3 October. There are a few things I've been saving up to say about this and the UK situation, which I'll look at this week.
In its last report in 2002, the Committee called for the UK government to "adopt the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes." The government made some encouraging noises in its Public Health White Paper in 2004, but this proved to be illusory as when it came to reviewing the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations, it followed the industry line of minimal changes, rejecting the recommendations of health advocates and its own Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.
So hardly any surprise that when the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child considered the evidence we provided and the claims of the government for the action it had taken, it concluded:
---paragraphs 58 and 59
The Committee, while appreciating the progress made in recent years in the promotion and support of breastfeeding in the State party, it is concerned that implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes continues to be inadequate and that aggressive promotion of breastmilk substitutes remains common.
The Committee recommends that the State party implement fully the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The State party should also further promote baby-friendly hospitals and encourage that breastfeeding is included in nursery training.
The government has a review panel looking at the law. Let us hope it will save the government from being embarassed yet again in five years times for failing to protect child rights.
Let us see if the regulatory authorities, Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority, will heed this condemnation and act to protect child rights. The quarterly monitoring reports we are producing will show what happens.