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The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (also known as "The Code" or "The WHO Code") was published by the World Health Organisation in 1981 to protect vulnerable infants and families from the aggressive and inappropriate marketing of infant formula and related products like bottles and teats. It is an internationally agreed voluntary code of practice, which individual countries are urged to build into national law. The Code does not restrict the provision of factual information about infant formula, or the availability of formula to families, or restrict parent's choices.

The original Code has been refined and clarified in subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions. Particularly important for health professionals is resolution 69.9, passed in 2016 in relation to guidance presented to the World Health Assembly on the inappropriate promotion of foods to infants and young children. Resolution 69.9 urges health professionals to implement its recommendation that manufacturers should not:

  • Give gifts or incentives to healthcare staff

  • Use health facilities to host events, contests or campaigns

  • Provide any information for health workers other than that which is scientific and factual

  • Sponsor meetings of health professionals and scientific meetings

All health professionals should therefore be aware that they should not accept money or non-financial incentives from manufacturers of breastmilk substitutes, including payment to attend events or speak at events. Health professionals should also lobby their professionals associations and conferences they attend to refuse sponsorship by manufacturers of breastmilk substitutes.

HIFN welcomes the commitment of the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health to uphold the principles of resolution 69.9, and no longer take any donations or sponsorship from infant formula companies.

HIFN supports the International Society for Social Pediatrics and child health (ISSOP) declaration on conflict of interests and funding from the baby food industry

If you would like help in lobbying your health professional associations or conferences to uphold the WHO Code, please get in touch.

Further Resources:


Implementation manual for resolution 69.9

Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative guidance for health professionals

Mother and Newborn
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