Did you see the apparent press release from the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) stating that the US body would no longer accept sponsorship from the infant formula industry? Did you notice the date was April 1st - April fools' day?
The fact is that the AAP, which has been criticised in the past for sponsored events and materials, is not cutting its links with the industry. The bogus press release which the hoaxer attributed to the President of the AAP stated: "Further, I would like to apologize for our past mistakes involving the> breastfeeding advertisement campaign and allowing the maker of Similac> infant formula to print its corporate logo on the cover of a special edition> of the academy's book on breastfeeding."
This was a reference to a past controversy, as reported in the Abott Ross entry in Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2004, produced by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) International Code Documentation Centre:
This same strategy [of image transfer] was used for a well-known breastfeeding book published in 2002 by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); Abbott bought 300,000 copies and added the Rosco bear to the cover. Mothers and doctors who receive a free copy, get a double message. Does it promote breastfeeding or Similac? The chairman of the AAP breastfeeding committee called it “Thievery”. But AAP makes a profit and agreed to sell Abbott another 300,000 copies in 2003. Abbott has continously nurtured close ties with the AAP by giving grants for its awards and donating at least $500,000 towards AAP’s operating budget. The company also contributes to the $1 million renewable grant to the AAP by several formula manufacturers. Little wonder that AAP came to the companies’ aid when they felt a 2003 US government campaign to promote breastfeeding was too hard-hitting on the risks of formula feeding. The campaign has now been watered down.
The hoax press release ended: "Again, I can cannot express enough regret and can assure you that the AAP will immediately seek compliance with the WHO Code and will promote the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative."
The issues of sponsorship and conflicts of interest are addressed by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly, calling for care over links with commercial enterprises.
The hoax was sent by a doctor to the Lactnet discussion group. AAP's lawyers have called for past postings, from an identified doctor, to be removed after apparently being contacted by members of the public about the change in policy.
So to be clear, the policy has not changed. The AAP has yet to be persuaded to comply with WHA Resolutions on conflicts of interest, including the latest to deal with this WHA 58.32 from 2005, which calls for action to: "ensure that financial support and other incentives for programmes and health professionals working in infant and young-child health do not create conflicts of interest."