By Vivian Ihechu
Lagos – The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has called for compliance to the Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes (BMS) Code, saying it is affecting infant nutrition.
Prof. Mojishola Adeyeye, the Director-General of NAFDAC, made the call at a day sensitisation workshop in Lagos, on “Compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes’’.
Adeyeye said that this would protect optimal infant and young child feeding through promotion, protection and support for exclusive breastfeeding.
The workshop was organised by Fhi360- Alive and Thrive Team, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Adeyeye said: “The importance of appropriate infant and young child feeding and its resultant effect on national economic development cannot be overemphasised.
“However, there are various challenges hampering its actualisation.
“One of such challenges is the continued violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (BMS) and national regulations by manufacturers of BMS products.
“The knowledge and lack of awareness of stakeholders including the media, has also contributed to the gravity of violations currently being practised in Nigeria.
“This has necessitated the need for the regulatory agency in collaboration with relevant partners to aggressively address this unpleasant situation through interventions including effective sensitisation of all stakeholders.’’
“For better code compliance, it is essential to note that the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 (WHA 34.22; 1981).’’
Adeyeye, represented by Eva Edwards, a Deputy Director in NAFDAC, said by the provisions of Act 22 of 1999, NAFDAC was specifically designated as the Regulatory Agency concerned with Code implementation, enforcement and monitoring in Nigeria.
Commenting, Patricia Monwuba, a retired Deputy Director of NAFDAC, said that breastfeeding was the natural and normal way to provide optimal nutritional, immunological and emotional nurturing for the growth and development of infants.
“No artificial baby milk is the same as breastmilk in terms of nutrients, enzymes, growth factors, hormones, immunological and anti-inflammatory properties or in infant growth and development outcomes.
“Breastfeeding also contributes to women’s health by reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and it also helps to increase the spacing between pregnancies.
“ Breastfeeding provides social and economic benefits to the family and the nation,’’ Monwuba said.
On the Summary of the Code Provisions, she said that there should be no advertising of any of these products to the public.
Monwuba said: “No free samples to mothers; No promotion of products in healthcare facilities including the distribution of free or low-cost supplies.
“No company sales representatives to advise mothers; No gifts or personal samples to health workers; No words or pictures idealising artificial feeding or pictures of infants on labels of infant milk containers.’’
According to her, information to health workers should be scientific and factual.
“Also, all information on artificial infant feeding, including ones on labels should explain the benefits of breastfeeding and the costs and hazards associated with artificial feeding.
“Unsuitable products, such as sweetened condensed milk should not be promoted for babies.
“Manufacturers and distributors should comply with the Code’s provisions even if countries have not adopted laws or other measures,’’ she said.
Also, Mrs Ummulkhairi Bobboi, the Assistant Director, NAFDAC, said that there were penalties to the violation of the code in line with a reviewed Resolution by the WHA.
“It says that a person who contravenes any provision of these Regulations is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction with warning letters for first offenders.
“Some other fines include seizure of offending articles for destruction, administrative fines, closure of business premises, prosecution of recalcitrant offenders, leading to fines from N150,000 – N2,000,000 and jail term not exceeding 6 months, as appropriate,’’ Bobboi said.
In his remarks, the Head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Chris Isokpunwu, called for workplaces to adopt the national policy on maternity/paternity entitlement.
Isokpunwu, represented by Mrs Thompson Chimay, said that this could be achieved by establishing crèches/breastfeeding corner for working mothers and creating conducive and flexible free working hours for breastfeeding mothers and caregivers.
He said that this would ensure optimal Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition and Family planning (MIYCN).
On the health and economic benefits of optimal breastfeeding, Abdulsalam Ozigis, the Deputy Director, Food System and Applied Nutrition, NAFDAC, said that it would prevent no fewer than 103,742 infant deaths.