Non-compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes is not confined to the infant formula industry

J Public Health (Oxf). 2013 Jun;35(2):185-90. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fds084. Epub 2013 May 8.


Infant feeding policy and practice continues to be a contentious area of global health care. The infant formula industry is widely considered to be the bête noire with frequent claims that they adopt marketing and sales practices that are not compliant with the WHO Code. However, failure to resolve these issues over three decades suggests that there may be wider systemic failings. Review of published papers, commentaries and reports relating to the implementation and governance of the WHO Code with specific reference to issues of non-compliance. The analysis set out in this paper indicates that there are systemic failings at all levels of the implementation and monitoring process including the failure of WHO to successfully 'urge' governments to implement the Code in its entirety; a lack of political will by Member States to implement and monitor the Code and a lack of formal and transparent governance structures. Non-compliance with the WHO Code is not confined to the infant formula industry and several actions are identified, including the need to address issues of partnership working and the establishment of governance systems that are robust, independent and transparent.

Keywords: food and nutrition; neonates.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding
  • Government Regulation
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Industry
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula*
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Marketing*
  • World Health Organization