More concrete steps needed to monitor the marketing of formulated foods for infants and young children in Myanmar

Tuesday 17 March 2015

About 25 participants from 12 organisations attended a training session to prepare civil society organisations in Myanmar on monitoring the order of marketing of formulated food for infants and young children. The session was held by the Leveraging Essential Nutrition Actions to Reduce Malnutrition (LEARN) project, a consortium of Save the Children, Helen Keller International and Action Contre La Faim, in Yangon on March 10-12.

Myanmar signed on to the International Code for Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes on July 24, 2014 that would ensure that manufacturers and distributors of food for children up to two years of age label their products so that is does not discourage breastfeeding or encourage use of accessory feeding utensils, amongst other requirements. However, violations of these rules continue to be observed as products are imported from around the world, and packaged without Myanmar language labels.

“Signing on the international code of marketing breastmilk substitutes was a very big step for Myanmar,” said Elizabeth Whelan, Programme Manager for the LEARN project. “But we need to ensure that we put it into action, and protect mothers and children from marketing tactics that discourage them from breastfeeding or encourage them to use feeding accessories unnecessarily.”

“No company has been able to create a product that is equal to a mother’s own breastmilk. Breastmilk meets the complete needs of children under six months of age, and after six months it continues to be an important source of nutrition for young children until two years and beyond. Mothers should not be influenced into thinking that their milk is not good enough for their children,” she added.

At present, there is no concrete process for monitoring the marketing of breastmilk substitutes, methods of feedback and complaints, or mechanism to impose punishments on those who violate those rules. The training provided participants with an understanding of the infant and young child feeding in Myanmar, a brief history of the code of marketing breastmilk substitutes in Myanmar, and practical work on monitoring the marketing of breastmilk substitutes.

“We hope this training is a step forward in ensuring better control of the distribution of breastmilk substitutes,” said Ms Whelan.

The LEARN project is a consortium of Save the Children, in partnership with Action Contre la Faim (ACF) and Helen Keller International (HKI), funded by the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) to support non-government organisations to implement more nutrition-sensitive programmes.