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Goodhew: Revised Code of Practice for the Infant Formula

Jo Goodhew

21 February, 2013

Launch of the revised Code of Practice for the Marketing of Infant Formula in New Zealand

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.

Firstly, thanks to Jan Carey for the introduction and invitation for me to be part of today’s proceedings.

I am pleased to welcome you all here today, especially those who have travelled from Australia, for the launch of the Infant Nutrition Council’s revised Code of Practice for the Marketing of Infant Formula in New Zealand.

Since 1983, New Zealand has been a signatory to the World Health Organization International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. The International Code aims for “safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breast-milk substitutes, when these are necessary”.

Proper use of breast-milk substitutes means on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution, which is where the Code of Practice comes in.

As a signatory to the International Code, New Zealand is committed to protecting and promoting breastfeeding. Breastfeeding provides optimum nutrition for infants. It assists physical and emotional development, encourages emotional attachment between mother and baby, and offers protection against infectious and chronic diseases.

The Ministry of Health’s advice is that mothers who are able to do so should exclusively breastfeed their baby until their baby is ready for and needs extra food – which is usually at around six months of age. But although breast is best when you can, for mothers who are unable to or choose not to breastfeed, it is important there is good information and support for them on the proper use of breast-milk substitute.

The Infant Nutrition Council’s revised Code of Practice that I am launching today forms an integral part of New Zealand’s commitment to the International Code. It involves the voluntary agreement by leading members of the infant formula industry not to market infant formula for infants under six months of age to the general public in New Zealand. I commend the members of the Infant Nutrition Council for voluntarily making this commitment.

In situations where mothers have made an informed decision to use infant formula, the revised Code of Practice guides infant formula marketers on how to provide information and educational materials to health practitioners in an appropriate way.

With this commitment, the Infant Nutrition Council Code sets a high standard for industry practice, both nationally and internationally.

This high standard is important for supporting public health messages about the benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and babies in New Zealand. Furthermore, the Code assists with ensuring responsible dissemination of scientific, factual and relevant information to health practitioners working in our healthcare system.

This high standard is also important for maintaining New Zealand’s reputation as an exporter of high quality food products that meet our own standards, as well as international expectations.

However, the infant formula industry in New Zealand is changing. More manufacturers and marketers of infant formula are emerging in New Zealand who are not members of the Infant Nutrition Council, and have not made a voluntary commitment to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes.

I encourage you to work towards bridging the gap with members of the infant formula industry who do not belong to the INC, and who do not meet the industry standard. The changing nature of the infant formula industry presents a challenge for all of us, including the Infant Nutrition Council. Members of the Infant Nutrition Council are industry leaders.

The Government recognises the Infant Nutrition Council’s revised Code as an industry standard and expects all infant formula manufacturers and marketers in New Zealand to meet this standard. New Zealand is a small country with limited resources. Therefore, the Government thinks it makes sense for us to work together to establish and maintain a single, consistent industry standard, which all manufacturers and marketers of infant formula meet.

The Infant Nutrition Council has engaged with the Ministry of Health when revising its Code of Practice, and has demonstrated willingness and ability to work with Government. An example of this is in accepting a proposal from the Ministry of Health to strengthen the Code in relation to emergency situations and the management of infant formula, in situations where it is donated.

Emergencies often result in disruption to healthcare and other infrastructure. Access to food and safe water may be compromised. One recent example for New Zealanders is of course the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch. This resulted in a State of National Emergency being declared, which remained in place for nine weeks. This experience has provided lessons for the Ministry of Health and other groups in how to better manage emergencies.

Emergency situations can be particularly disruptive for pregnant women and people caring for infants. It is important that appropriate processes and consistent advice is available for people who are feeding infants during an emergency. This applies to support for breastfeeding mothers, and to assistance for parents with babies who are bottle-fed.

The Infant Nutrition Council has recognised the importance of appropriate support for breastfed and bottle fed infants in emergency situations. National emergency preparedness plans will provide emergency relief, with donations going to a single designated health agency to control.

I am very pleased to have been able to join you to launch the Infant Nutrition Council’s revised Code of Practice today.

Going forward there will be challenges, but I strongly urge you to work together to ensure safe and adequate nutrition for all infants in New Zealand.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

ENDS


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