Dr Kenneth Russell, quality education specialist at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), is calling for a ban on advertising breastfeeding formula and other substitutes, which, according to him, have contributed to poor breastfeeding habits among mothers in Jamaica.
Speaking with The Gleaner following a media forum for Infant and Young Child Feeding Principles and Practices at the Pan American Health Organization offices on Wednesday, Russell said Jamaica has been in breach of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, which prohibits the advertising of infant formula, for many years.
"The code is clear. It says no marketing. Full stop," he declared.
"It is in violation of the code, and if you look in the newspapers, you see ways in which these manufacturers, over the years, have tried to get around it."
The code is an international health-policy framework for breastfeeding promotion adopted by the World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization in 1981, which was developed as a global public-health strategy and recommends restrictions on the marketing of breast-milk substitutes.
SEEING BIGGER PICTURE
"We would want a ban on marketing, as in advertising, of these products, as this is what is consistent with the code. They can continue to sell, but as it relates to advertising, we would prefer a complete ban because we have to look at the bigger picture, which is producing healthy children," Russell said.
Sharmaine Edwards, director of nutrition in the Ministry of Health, also believes there must be serious discussions to regulate marketing of infant formula.
"The international code was endorsed by Jamaica from as early as 1991, and so we really need to get the stakeholders engaged in some serious discussions, because it is just an agreement. Where we need to go is to implement legislation and apply sanctions," Edwards said.