Three decades of the WHO code and marketing of infant formulas

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2012 May;15(3):273-7. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32835204ad.


Purpose of review: The International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes states that governments, non-governmental organizations, experts, consumers and industry need to cooperate in activities aimed at improving infant nutrition. However, the evidence from the last three decades is that of a series of disputes, legal proceedings and boycotts. The purpose of this review is to assess the overall progress in the implementation of the Code and to examine the problematic areas of monitoring, compliance and governance.

Recent findings: There are continuing issues of implementation, monitoring and compliance which predominantly reflect weak governance. Many Member States have yet to fully implement the Code recommendations and most States do not have adequate monitoring and reporting mechanisms. Application of the Code in developed countries may be undermined by a lack of consensus on the WHO recommendation of 6 months exclusive breastfeeding. There is evidence of continuing conflict and acrimony, especially between non-government organizations and industry.

Summary: Measures need to be taken to encourage the Member States to implement the Code and to establish the governance systems that will not only ensure effective implementation and monitoring of the Code, but also deliver the Code within a spirit of participation, collaboration and trust.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Developed Countries
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / standards
  • Marketing / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Marketing of Health Services / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Marketing of Health Services / standards
  • World Health Organization / organization & administration*