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Brazil Advocates for Global Oversight of Infant Formula Marketing Amidst Industry Challenges

Brazil 20.02.2024
Source: The DairyNews
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Despite having robust national policies promoting breastfeeding, Brazil grapples with the persistent influence of major infant formula producers, prompting the country to support a World Health Organization (WHO) resolution aimed at regulating digital marketing in this sector.
Brazil Advocates for Global Oversight of Infant Formula Marketing Amidst Industry Challenges
Ensuring the healthy and sustainable nutrition of infants requires stringent regulation of the commercial milk formula industry. Brazil, renowned for its strong breastfeeding laws, faces challenges as major formula producers, particularly Nestlé and Danone, continue to impact public health and influence families' nutritional choices.

A recent study, including insights from nutritionist Cindy Alejandra Pachón Robles, sheds light on the growth of Brazil's commercial milk formula industry despite stringent national legislation. While the country has taken legislative steps to protect infant nutrition, such as incorporating maternity leave rights and establishing breastmilk banks, formula sales have surged from USD 62 million in 2006 to USD 525 million in 2020.

The researchers attribute this trend to industry practices, including lobbying efforts and marketing strategies aimed at gaining consumer trust. Nestlé and Danone, holding over 90% of the market, engage in intensive lobbying, fostering relationships with regulatory agencies like the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency, Anvisa.

Expanding marketing efforts into unregulated areas, such as promoting follow-up formulas for older children and using similar packaging for various age groups, contributes to undermining confidence in breastfeeding. The rise of digital marketing, despite restrictions on direct advertising, allows formula companies to reach parents and caregivers, often collaborating with influencers.

Recognizing the need to address this challenge, Brazil is leading the charge at the World Health Assembly to propose a binding resolution regulating digital marketing of commercial milk formula. During a recent WHO Executive Board session, Brazil emphasized the crucial role of regulating digital marketing in safeguarding public health interests.

Anticipating resistance from the formula industry, which may leverage existing relationships with health worker associations, Brazil's efforts align with WHO and civil society calls to sever ties between health experts' organizations and formula companies. Some associations, like the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics, are likely to resist, maintaining connections with Nestlé and Danone despite the push for regulatory reforms.
Gabrielle Chan
Gabrielle Chan
Author and journalist, and was previously Guardian Australia's rural and regional editor
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Jon Patterson
Jon Patterson
Owner of Patterson Farms in Cayuga County and director of the Northeast Dairy Producers Association.
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