Despite implementing a ban on marketing for breast-milk substitutes (BMS) in an effort to boost natural breastfeeding, suppliers of baby formula continue to commit “flagrant violations” of the law by marketing their products illegally and claiming superior health benefits, a new report shows.
The joint report, released on Monday by World Vision and Helen Keller International, found that over 110 BMS were being hawked in the six provinces studied, while 58 per cent of the marketing schemes employed by companies were unlawful.
World Vision campaign manager Suong Soksophea expressed shock at how many companies violated Sub-Decree 133, a 2005 measure passed by the Cambodian government that regulated the marketing of powdered milk for children.
The decree was adopted to ensure that companies steer clear of using misleading marketing or labels that may confuse parents and caregivers.
“Our law has encouraged breastfeeding, since breast milk has special nutrients for infants and young children that help them grow strong and protect them from disease,” she said yesterday.
The study also quoted the Cambodian Demographic and Health Survey, which found the rate of breastfeeding in the Kingdom has dipped from 73.5 per cent in 2010 to 65 per cent in 2014.
Soksophea said that in addition to depriving Cambodian children of essential health benefit, some types of formula have also been blamed for unexpected diseases later in life, though studies are still inconclusive.
“Infants or children may get sick or get diarrhea from these products.
Even worse, they could get diabetes or high blood pressure in the future due to using these products that have not been [produced] according to standards,” she said.
And despite the fact that Sub-Decree 133 was passed some 10 years ago, Cambodia only created a National Oversight Board dedicated to its enforcement in the past few months.
“These flagrant violations of Sub-Decree No 133 and Joint Prakas No 061 show how important it is to enforce these laws to protect the health of our children.
We are working to support the Government of Cambodia to monitor and enforce Sub-Decree No 133,” Keith Porter, country director at Helen Keller International in Cambodia, said in a release accompanying the report.
The report was submitted to the Ministry of Health and other relevant authorities, and officials have promised more control measures will be taken.
“The Ministry of Health created a commission to control the content of the implementation of Sub-Decree 133 . . . by preventing the flow of unqualified products [in order to] promote breastfeeding,” said Prak Sophorn Neary, the deputy director of the National Centre for Maternal and Child Health.
Neary added that the Ministry of Health will continue to punish companies or vendors in violation of the law by first warning them of their infractions, and then revoking their sales licences if they continue to flout the law.