Pregnant women targeted by the formula milk industry on social media

Isabel Saco Geneva, Feb 23 Pregnant women and young mothers have become the target of the formula milk industry on social networks, which uses algorithms to analyze the behavior of women on the Internet and determine whether it may be a future or recent mother, in which case he directs them extensively to convince them that his product is better than mother’s milk. The World Health Organization (WHO) today released the results of the first cross-country study on the marketing of formula milk, revealing a strategy that attacks confidence in breastfeeding through make-believe messages. in the industrial superiority. VIOLATION OF MARKETING REGULATION The international community adopted in 1981 the International Code on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in order to regulate promotion and advertising strategies, but the study shows that it is violated daily throughout the world. “A large percentage of the violations that we see come through social networks and this is a serious problem. We are not talking about censoring women who want to say something about formula milk, (share) their experiences, the problem is when companies enter the networks and make their promotions and put messages against breastfeeding,” one of the study’s authors, Dr. Larry Grummer-Strawn, told Efe. Companies do not always lie, but in many cases they use false or biased information about breast milk, a behavior that the WHO wants to help stop with this report. AN ARSENAL OF MARKETING The study, conducted through interviews with 8,500 parents and 300 health workers from various countries, provides evidence that marketing is everywhere and uses the emotions, fears and ambitions of women in one of the most vulnerable stages of their lives. Companies turn to the full arsenal of digital marketing, including “influencers” (celebrities, mothers and even doctors) who make comments in favor of formula milk, as well as online support forums or baby clubs. Despite the fact that on paper all countries agree with the 1981 Code, which could avoid the drift of the marketing of formula milk, Grummer-Strawn indicated that only 25 countries have laws that protect mothers and pregnant women of these abuses. MILK RECALL IN THE US In recent days, a manufacturer in the United States began a recall of three types of infant formula suspected of having caused bacterial infections in four babies. WHO scientist Nigel Rollins commented that incidents like this demonstrate “the importance of decisions that are made at birth and in the first months of life. In this case it is about immediate consequences, but there can also be long-term consequences.” term”. Breastfeeding rates have practically not moved in the last twenty years (only 44% of babies up to six months receive exclusively this milk), while sales of formula milk have more than doubled and the sector It has reached a value of 55,000 million dollars. “We see a lot of conflicts of interest as the industry tries to directly push politicians to change things or not. This industry moves a lot of money and applies its power to make laws that benefit them,” Grummer-Strawn said. HOW TO STOP THE ABUSES? The report asks whether the marketing of formula milk should not be stopped, since it has been shown that sales strategies work even when it comes to products that are harmful to health, such as tobacco, alcohol or ultra-processed products, so one of the ideas could be to use neutral labeling on baby milk containers. “The labels are a way of promoting, the messages are in the labels, the images and the drawings that are designed to express that the product is the best and this goes against breastfeeding,” explained the expert. The industry has lately set its sights on ways to create new needs and has increased its efforts on new products, such as a machine for formula milk capsules (similar to coffee ones), a premium product aimed at busy mothers. Breast milk within the first hour of life followed by exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continuing for up to two years or more offers the child a broad defense against all forms of malnutrition, protects against the most common diseases of childhood and prevents the risk of diabetes, obesity and some forms of cancer in mothers. EFE is/abc/ig (video) (audio)

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