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We can all do something to save the children


It is so encouraging to know that there are many people working worldwide for the protection and well-being of children, especially those who campaign for the rights of children to be breast-fed in the way nature intended to get the nutrition they need to fight-off infections and develop a strong immune system for the rest of their lives.

However, over the years, multinational food companies trying to find markets for the over abundant European dairy industry, have targeted young children with milk formula products.

They have many tricks to get that bottle of powdered milk into the baby’s mouth. They know once the child has a taste of the formula, it gets hooked on it and cries for more. It is as if they become addicted and reject their mother’s milk. Then they cry until they get it again.

Even poor parents are persuaded by the promotion and advertising showing fat, healthy babies being bottle-fed by Caucasian mothers. 

The advertisements give the impression that it is superior and more progressive and healthier for their children.

The mothers may be illiterate and cannot read the information on the can or package of powdered milk. They don’t know that they should heat the water, mix the powder and let it cool. More than 8,400 babies would be saved from death if they had the 36 months of breast feeding, according to World Health Organisation and UNICEF.

Breast feeding prevents blood infection, diarrhea, pneumonia and diseases of the digestive tract. Health agencies say it prevents ear infection and skin allergies and it can prevent Infant Death Syndrome. Also asthma, diabetes type one, and even childhood obesity can be prevented.

Some mothers use unheated or contaminated water to mix the formula, so the child becomes sick and even dies. Campaigners say that pushing milk formula kills babies.

Hundreds of thousands of children die from this bad practice and aggressive, unethical marketing of baby formula. Progressive and proud mothers feed their babies with their own milk.

Every concerned person ought to be advising expectant mothers to be sure to breast feed and express horror when they see bottles of baby formula.

That’s why every year in May, there is an annual demonstration outside the offices of the multinational food giant, Nestlé, in Croydon, England. Nestlé is one of the biggest producers and marketers of baby formula.

According to the Croydon protests, Nestlé advertises the formula saying it protects babies. Protesters also say it is one of the most criticised and most boycotted companies in the United Kingdom and among the top four in the world.

The law being proposed in The Philippine congress to cut the 36-month recommended breast-feeding period to six, is being called insidious. The proposed law favours multinational companies and would restrict the Philippine Milk Code.

The current law restricts distribution of milk formula samples to emergency food during typhoons, floods and natural disasters, but under the new proposed law, there would be no such restriction.

It is a nasty way to get babies addicted to formula substitutes by taking advantage of people’s need. 

The new law will permit samples of formula to be available in government health clinics and permit representatives of the milk formula companies to be involved in child feeding programmes.

The well-meaning legislators proposing this law are surely not aware of the implications it would have. I encourage readers to write to them at The Philippine Congress, Constitution Hills, Quezon City, Metro Manila.

If representatives, Magtanggol Gunigundo, of Valenzuela City, Anna Bondoc, of Pampanga, Lani Mercado-Revilla, of Cavite, Josephine Lacson-Noel, of Malabon City, Rufas Rodriguez, of Cagayan de Oro City, and Lucy Gomez, of Leyte, know the real impact of the law they are pushing, they would surely abandon it.

They have been given wrong information, perhaps by the multinationals, that baby formula is a good way to protect and help hungry poor children. How very wrong that is.

There is nothing in this for the congress members, no money, no benefit, no gain. But it will bring untold harm to hundreds of thousands of children.

Father Shay Cullen