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FDA launches crackdown vs companies violating Milk Code
September 03, 2012

By: Philippine Star

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launch a crackdown on unscrupulous milk companies that continue to violate Executive Order No. 51, or the Philippine Milk Code of 1986, by coming out with a website where violations can easily be reported.

In a forum, Atty. Emil Polig, chief of the FDA Legal, Information and Compliance Division, said there have been widespread violations of the Milk Code despite the revision of its rules and regulation and improvement of the regulatory function of the inter-agency committee that was tasked to oversee implementation.

Many milk companies have been deliberately ignoring and circumventing the law to promote infant formula.

Polig noted that to easily monitor violations, the FDA will maintain the website www.milkcodephilippines.org where violations can be reported. This will also be used by the agency to update the public developments concerning breastfeeding and other pertinent information.

The website will also provide links to important resource and partners; facility for supporting document uploading including pictures, audio and video and a tracking system to update members on the status of cases filed.

The FDA and the Department of Health has tapped the League of Cities of the Philippines to develop the website with the support of the World Health Organization.

Polig claimed provisions in the Code commonly violated by milk companies are those on advertisements, promotion and sponsorship of infant formula or breastmilk substitute.

Exclusive breastfeeding

The code mandates exclusive breastfeeding for infants from zero to six months old. This means that processed milk and water should not be given to infants this age group. It states that appropriate feeding and safe complementary feeding of infants should start from six months onward.

Dr. Howard Sobel, team leader for the Maternal and Child Health of the World Health Organization Western Pacific Region Office, said this means that infants in this age group, should be “no water, no food, no juice, no vitamins and no formula.

“International data suggest that 22 percent of deaths can be prevented if we initiate breastfeeding in the first hour of life… Continuing breastfeeding up to two years. Studies in the Philippine show that even in second year of life, we can reduce mortality by up to 30 percent. Add solid and semi –solid food from six months onwards. Together we can save million children’s live under the age of five every year globally,” he maintained.

Sobel added that breastfeeding is highly beneficial for children as it “reduces the risk of deaths and illnesses” from sepsis or blood infection in the first month of life; diarrhea; pneumonia; necrotizing entero-colitis or a gut problem in pre-term babies; ear infections; sudden infant death syndrome. Skin allergies; asthma; leukemia; type 1 diabetes and obesity.

Breastfeeding mothers, on the other hand, lower rates of Type II diabetes; breast cancer; ovarian cancer; baby blues or post-partum depression.

Rising breastfeeding culture

Dr. Mariella Castillo, a Maternal and Child Health specialist at the United Nations Children ‘s Fund, said that while there is a “very good and commendable” law, it needs to be implemented strictly.

Castillo claimed that in this year’s World Health Assembly, governments were enjoined to increase the exclusive breastfeeding rates and to safeguards against “potential conflict of interest” among milk companies and among doctors.

She added that the latest survey of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute showed a rise in the exclusive breastfeeding rate in the Philippines, it is still low.

The survey showed that in 2003, the rate was 29.7 percent but rose to 35.9 in 2008 and to 46.7 percent in 2011.

“We were given a pat on the back…While this is a very encouraging development, it should not be a cause for complacency because it is less than half. We want exclusive breastfeeding to be practice by majority of women. In 90 or 95 percent and we are only halfway to our mark,” Castillo added.

 

 

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