The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - Lawmakers on Wednesday vowed to thwart proposals by their colleagues in the House of Representatives to amend the Milk Code, saying this would weaken the campaign for breastfeeding and pave the way for increased milk substitute advertisements in the country.
Proposed amendments to Republic Act 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 would dilute the current law, which recognizes breast milk as superior to infant formula, Gabriela partylist Representative Luz Ilagan and Trade Union Congress of the Philippine partylist Raymond Mendoza said.
Both lawmakers also warned that they are up against a tough battle in the chamber because the substitute measures being proposed are being backed by giant milk companies such as Nestle, Wyeth, Abbott, Mead Johnson, and Fonterra.
“We are against it, this is in the guise of expanding the Milk Code but the move is backed by Nestle to water down the Milk Code provision that ensures rooming in and breastfeeding after birth. The expansion also aims to change provision banning advertising infant formula,” Ilagan said.
Mendoza stressed that milk substitutes are more costly to the family and is no match for mother’s milk.
“No Filipino parent earning the Php 456.00 daily minimum wage can afford pricey infant milk formulas these days. Even workers earning more than the minimum wage could hardly afford the exorbitant infant milk prices if we factor in the cost of education, food, transportation, water, electricity and other basic commodities,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza said he personally checked the prices of infant formula in groceries and was surprised to see that a 1.6 kilogram can could cost as much as P1,768.
“There is a tendency for poorer families to dilute infant formula which further lessens its benefits,” he said. The best alternative to rising costs in breast milk substitutes is mother’s milk, he added.
According to Mendoza, money can be spent for other expenses of the family instead of forking it out on cans of milk formula that will never match the nutritional value of mother’s milk.
In her earlier column, lawyer Rita Linda Jimeno cited the negative effects of the substitute bills:
First, it will narrow down the application of the Milk Code. While the Milk Code provides that artificial baby foods, such as infant formula, should not be used for babies aged 0 to 36 months, the draft House Bill limited the application of the law to infants aged 0 to six months only.
Second, the draft bill lifted the restriction on donations of artificial milk products in emergency situations. Thus, mothers who suffer from disabilities would be encouraged to shift to milk substitutes instead of being encouraged to continue breastfeeding assisted by support persons.
Third, while lactating mothers used to be entitled to lactation breaks for a total of 40 minutes in an eight-hour-work period, with pay, under the bill, lactation breaks will no longer be paid.
Fourth, milk companies will now be allowed, once again, to give away free samples of artificial milk products in the health care system.
Fifth, the dual language (English and Filipino) of the literature in milk cans and boxes will be removed. The literature explains that breast milk is superior to artificial milk products and cites the dangers of formula feeding.
Sixth, the bill also allows milk formula manufacturers to get involved in educational activities and the production of materials relating to breastfeeding, infant and young child care and nutrition.