Baby formula industry: Time to pass law on breast milk substitutes

  • 24 Feb 2023
  • 2 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Anne Ndungu

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently sounded the alarm on the continued and aggressive marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes but where does Kenya lie on this issue? Kenya issued draft Breast Milk Substitutes (Regulations and Control) (General) Regulations in 2021 for public review.

The draft regulations recognise the importance of the initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth and an exclusive breastfeeding window of six months after birth for the proper and healthy upbringing of infants. This period should be followed by supplementation with complementary food for another 24 months.

With regard to breast milk substitutes, the regulations stipulate that they should be safe for infant consumption and should be properly labelled.

The draft regulations append the Breast Milk Substitutes (Regulation and Control) Act, 2012 with regard to the fact that despite the clear regulatory guidance, inappropriate breast milk substitute marketing continues unabated through channels such as health practitioners and systems, policy makers, and direct promotion to consumers. This has resulted in poor feeding habits of infants in the country and poor health outcomes in terms of malnutrition.

In these draft regulations, Kenya is therefore committed to ensuring three key things. That the regulations guide users, manufacturers and sellers of breast milk substitutes to ensure that they are aware that these substitutes are suboptimal to breastfeeding and their use can lead to serious illness in infants and young children, to prohibit marketing such as inserts and cross promotions and to restrict promotional marketing of BMS through donations, labeling, and designated products and to establish guidelines on informational and educational materials and activities.

The clarion call by the WHO is therefore timely and will assist Kenya’s efforts to curb CMF marketing activities in the country. The study by Lancet used by the WHO to call governments to ensure that they receive the correct information on CMF products. The time is nigh to pass these draft regulations into law.