Health ministry clarifies Breast Milk Substitutes regulations after uproar on alleged ban of feeding bottles

April 1, 2022 - Reading Time: 2 minutes - By Naisiae Simiren

The Ministry of Health has come out to clear the air after media reports indicated that the ministry had banned the use of breastfeeding bottles. The MoH termed the reports as misinformation by the media which led to a public outcry this week.

The media reports came after the Ministry of Health, this week, held its first “National Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN) Symposium”. The symposium sought to promote optimal maternal infant and young child nutrition for improved child growth, development, and survival. Aligning to the theme of the symposium, the Ministry of Health stated that it had disseminated several of its policies and legislation for standardised practice in the industry. Among the regulations disseminated include the Breast Milk Substitutes Regulations 2021 which best implements the objectives of the Breast Milk Substitutes (Regulation and Control) Act, 2012. The regulations also seek to align with the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes recommendations. The WHO Code is a global health framework promoting, protecting, and supporting breastfeeding.  The Regulations establish rules restricting promotional marketing of breast milk substitutes and designated products, donations, labelling and advertising among other things as required by the enabling Act.

After the claims of a nationwide ban on breastfeeding bottles, teats and pacifiers with effect from May 28,  2022, the ministry issued a clarification saying the Regulations specifically place strict requirements that the breastfeeding bottles should have labels with specified font size and warning information advocating for actual breastfeeding. MoH added that teat labels have strict restrictions against graphic representation on the teat containers where only the manufacturer’s logo and cleaning illustration should be displayed. The teat container should not advocate for the use of teat by words or image.  

The Regulations on labelling of pacifiers also have specific restrictions on font size and should also contain warning information that use of teat could interfere with breastfeeding. Baby formulas have also been targeted in the Regulations where packaging of the baby formula should indicate source of proteins and not have words that glorify use of formula over breastfeeding such as “leads to growth or other development goals” among other things.  The use of English and Swahili language is also a requirement that must strictly be observed on the labelling of the breast milk substitute designated products. Currently all breast milk substitute labels use the English language which does not adequately inform many Kenyans on the benefits of breastfeeding.

The justifications of these restrictions are aligned to the International Code of marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes and are meant to emphasise the superiority of breastfeeding. The Ministry of Health also seeks to protect infants against potentially fatal diarrhoea, lung infections, and other illnesses. Manufacturers, marketers, promoters, and advertisers of breast milk substitute designated products have until 28 May 2022 to comply with these new regulations. Failure to comply would lead to ban of their products in the market.

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