x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sharjah law aims to drive home 'breast is best' message

A draft law on the marketing of baby-milk formula has been drawn up and is awaiting Government approval, the head of a campaign aimed at promoting breastfeeding has revealed.

SHARJAH // A draft law on the marketing of baby-milk formula has been drawn up and is awaiting Government approval, the head of a campaign aimed at promoting breastfeeding has revealed.

Dr Khawla Salman, the national coordinator of the health facilities section of the Sharjah Baby Friendly Emirate Campaign, said the law was designed to prevent the aggressive marketing of the product.

It would force makers to include a warning on their packaging that breastfeeding is better for the baby, and prevent them from encouraging mothers to abandon breast milk.

It follows a study that found that 48.1 per cent of UAE babies between the ages of 3 months and 6 months were fed artificial milk formula. Previous studies have found similar results.

"The draft specifies all the dos and don'ts of companies manufacturing breast-milk substitutes in promotions and packaging of their products," said Dr Salman.

"The companies cannot carry any message encouraging mothers to abandon breastfeeding, and they have to put a message on their products saying that breastfeeding is better than their products."

There will be penalties for companies that fail to meet these requirements.

Dr Salman was speaking at a conference on the implementation of an international code for the marketing of breast milk substitutes.

"Sharjah is championing this initiative as a passionate advocate of healthy babies and mothers," said Dr Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, the executive committee director of the campaign. "We are raising our campaign to the global level, where we aim to make Sharjah a proud role model of baby-friendliness worldwide."

The campaign encompasses four initiatives, covering nurseries, public places, workplaces and health facilities.

Joo Kean, a legal specialist from the International Code Documentation Centre in Malaysia and one of the speakers at the conference, said the biggest challenge now was implementing the code "in such a way that it does not violate the existing government regulations".

However, she said that "compared with other countries that have implemented this code, Sharjah is starting from an advanced level of knowledge which can fast-track its progress".

ykakande@thenational.ae