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NAPi writes to MOH&FW on violation of national law on breastfeeding

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Wants the government to initiate action against companies indulging in such violations from happening in the future

Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPi), a national think tank on nutrition consisting of independent experts in related fields has recently written to the Union Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda regarding the violation of a national law protecting breastfeeding by big food business i.e Nutricia Danone and Abbott.

Government of India enacted a law, the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (regulation of production, supply and distribution) Act (IMS Act) to Protect, Promote and Support breastfeeding in 1992 amended in 2003.

Infant formula manufacturers Abbott and Nutricia Danone were found violating the IMS Act by sponsoring the 37th annual convention of the National Neonatology Forum of India (NNF) held Gurugram organised by Haryana branch of National Neonatology Forum on 7-10 December 2017.

The exhibition stalls put up by these companies in the conference venue where Infant Milk Substitutes like Neocate infant formula (Nutricia Danone) and Similac Alimentum infant formula (Abbott) among other products were displayed and promoted to the doctors and nurses who attended the conference. (Annex 1-3)

The IMS Act prohibits sponsorship of conferences of health professionals. This is in violation of the section 9 of the IMS Act. Section 9 of the IMS Act states as under:

(1) No person who produces, supplies, distributes or sells infant milk substitutes or feeding bottles or infant foods shall offer or give, directly or indirectly, any financial inducements or gifts to a health worker or to any member of his family for the purpose of promoting the use of such substitutes or bottles or foods.

(2) No producer, supplier or distributor referred to in sub-section (1), shall offer or give any contribution or pecuniary benefit to a health worker or any association of health workers, including funding of seminar, meeting, conferences, educational course, contest, fellowship, research work or sponsorship.

According to the statement of objects and reasons of the IMS Act it is clearly pointed out the role of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW) in implementing this law in the country. The MOH&FW, Government of India has a defined responsibility towards this end, as especially Section 6,7,8,9,11 pertains to it.

Apart from the fact that Ministry of Health wrote a joint letter along with the Ministry of Women and Child Development to the Chief Secretaries of all the States, Ministry of Health also wrote in 2010 to all the professional associations including NNF to adhere to the provisions of the IMS Act. (Annex-5)

NAPi has urged the Union Minister to take note of the violation of the IMS Act and initiate action within the Ministry of Health to prevent such violations from happening in the future so as to protect the lives of infants and newborns. The think tank has also suggested blacklisting of such organisations in future and restrict collaboration with them.

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