Firms act on milk substitutes abuses

FIRMS from seven countries including the UK have formed a research group in a bid to tackle abuses of the international code which regulates the marketing of breast milk substitutes in developing countries.

Liverpool firm Ross & Co is the UK representative in the group which also contains firms from the US, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Sweden and Norway.

The group's aim is to push for better enforcement of the 1981 World Health Organisation International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes.

Graham Ross, of Ross & Co, said the group would be investigating the possibility of taking court action against companies which breach the code, which is designed to ensure milk substitutes are not distributed in areas with unsafe water supplies and inadequate sanitation.

To date, court action has rarely been used and the group will look at a number of litigation options, for example, whether court action is possible against US companies in the US for breaches of the code outside the country.

The initiative is being supported by the International Baby Food Action Network, the international lobby group seeking to promote breast feeding, which claims that abuses of the code are now widespread, particularly in the developing world.

However, Ralph Claydon, corporate affairs manager at Nestle UK, described the claims as 'nonsense'.

'We are confident that we are working well within the law as far as the code is concerned,' he said.