Tags: breastfeeding | world health assembly | united states | infant formula

NYT: U.S. Threats to Fight Breastfeeding Resolution Stun World Health Officials

NYT: U.S. Threats to Fight Breastfeeding Resolution Stun World Health Officials
(AP)

By    |   Sunday, 08 July 2018 06:28 PM

In an attempt to protect the interests of infant formula manufacturers, the United States threatened to cut military aid to Ecuador and implement punitive trade measures against it if it did not drop plans to introduce a measure at the UN-affiliated World Health Assembly in Geneva this spring encouraging breastfeeding, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

The resolution, based on decades of widely accepted research that says mother's milk is healthiest for children and that nations should try to limit misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes, was expected to be approved easily by the assembly, which is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization.

But American officials wanted to remove language that called on governments to "protect, promote and support breast-feeding" and another clause that urged policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have harmful effects on young children.

Sales for the baby food industry have flattened in wealthy countries in recent years, as more women embrace breast-feeding, although global sales are expected to rise by four percent in 2018.

The U.S. threats made Ecuador drop its plans to introduce the resolution and scared off other potential sponsors among poorer countries in Africa and Latin America, according to more than a dozen participants from several countries.

The intensity of the administration's opposition to the resolution stunned officials at the assembly, who said it was a sharp contrast to the Obama administration, which largely backed the WHO's longstanding policy of encouraging breastfeeding.

"We were astonished, appalled and also saddened," Patti Rundall, policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action and who has been involved in these discussions for three decades, told the Times. "What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on best way to protect infant and young child health."

Although the American attempts were eventually unsuccessful as the Russians introduced the measure, it was the latest example of the Trump administration siding with corporate interests on public health and environmental issues, such as the U.S. trying to limit the ability to put warning labels on junk food and sugary beverages in talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Department of Health and Human Services explained the decision to contest the breastfeeding resolution by saying, "The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children. We recognize not all women are able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so."

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In an attempt to protect the interests of infant formula manufacturers, the United States threatened to cut military aid to Ecuador and implement punitive trade measures against it if it did not drop plans to introduce a measure at the UN-affiliated World Health Assembly in...
breastfeeding, world health assembly, united states, infant formula
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2018-28-08
Sunday, 08 July 2018 06:28 PM
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