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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

IBFAN: The Business of Malnutrition

The Business of malnutrition: breaking down trade rules to profit from the poor

Guidelines for a new range of products for babies ‘at risk’ of malnutrition was the topic at the annual meeting of Codex, the UN body that sets food standards. In the press release below, learn about how the mass marketing of these products may create the scary new ‘business of malnutrition’ where the developed world makes big profits from the malnutrition and poverty of the developing world.

Press Release

The Business of malnutrition: 
breaking down trade rules to profit from the poor

Codex Nutrition Committee: Bad Soden, Frankfurt, Germany
12-18th November 2011
Health campaigners, led by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) and representatives from a dozen developing countries attended the Nutrition Meeting of Codex, the UN body that sets international food standards These attendees achieved partial success in the Codex Guidelines by calling for strict controls on the marketing of a loose range of processed fortified products for babies that were never clearly defined. The objective was to provide nutrients which are “either lacking or are present in insufficient quantities,” with the clear aim of targeting all those ‘at risk’ of malnutrition.
The countries, Brazil, Nigeria, Chile, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Gambia, Togo, Cameroon, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, South Africa and Bolivia, fearing that uncontrolled marketing would undermine breastfeeding, increase family poverty and create dependence on products that are expensive and often unnecessary, called for several key World Health Assembly Resolutions to be mentioned in the guidelines. The United States and the European Union initially opposed this move saying that because the Resolutions stand on their own there was no need to refer to them. Australia and Botswana suggested that paragraphs from the relevant WHA texts could be referenced and, after the World Health Organisation (WHO) explained the importance of the Resolutions, the EU and the US agreed to a compromise.
Experts from the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), led by Elisabeth Sterken of INFACT Canada, suggest that as the EU and US economic crisis continues, the new ‘business of malnutrition’ – which has the potential for multi-billion dollar profits from exports to the developing world and is portrayed as a win-win solution for the economy and development – could lead to a marketing bonanza that, instead of improving infant and young child health, could harm it and drain family budgets.
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Elisabeth Sterken
Director INFACT Canada/IBFAN North America