After reporting by the New York Times on Sunday detailed the Trump administration’s attempt to reward infant formula manufacturers by opposing a World Health Assembly resolution that called on nations to “protect, promote, and support breastfeeding” as the healthiest option for children, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the White House’s efforts clearly show its “slavish devotion to corporate profits.”
The Trump administration’s attempts to “water down” the resolution, as well as its threats to withdraw aid from nations that supported it, also provide further evidence of the White House’s “contempt for the health and well-being of Americans and people throughout the world,” Sanders argued.
The resolution was ultimately approved even in the face of U.S. opposition, but the Trump administration successfully stripped out language that called for the World Health Organization to support nations working to crack down on “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.”
“We need a government willing to counter misinformation from the baby food and formula industry, not one that caters to it.” —Dr. Gretchen Goldman, Union of Concerned Scientists
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As an investigation by the Guardian and Save the Children published in February makes clear, such inappropriate and deceptive promotion is pervasive in poor nations, where companies like Nestlé and Mead Johnson deploy “aggressive, clandestine, and often illegal methods to target mothers” and “encourage them to choose powdered milk over breastfeeding.”
“Representatives from Nestlé, Abbott, Mead Johnson, and Wyeth (now owned by Nestlé) were described as a constant presence in hospitals in the Philippines, where only 34 percent of mothers exclusively breastfeed in the first six months,” the investigation found. “Here, they reportedly hand out ‘infant nutrition’ pamphlets to mothers, which appear to be medical advice but in fact recommend specific formula brands and sometimes have money-off coupons.”
Dr. Gretchen Goldman, research director with the Union of Concerned Scientists, concluded that the Trump administration’s attempts to block the breastfeeding resolution “goes against the science and doesn’t bode well for the baby food/formula industry’s influence on the upcoming dietary guidelines process.”
“We need a government willing to counter misinformation from the baby food and formula industry, not one that caters to it,” Goldman wrote on Twitter.
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