World Health Organization Shocked by U.S. Opposition to Breastfeeding Resolution

With research favoring the use of breastmilk over formula, a resolution to limit advertisement of breast milk alternatives was expected to be widely accepted at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. The U.S. delegation, however, expressed heavy opposition to this resolution.  

American officials’ goal is to remove language that promotes breastfeeding from the resolution, as well as revoking a section that discourages purchasing some breastmilk alternatives. To suppress this resolutions impact, the U.S. imposed trade threats on countries that planned to implement it. Ecuador’s plans of incorporating the resolution were successfully stopped by American officials’ threats to retaliate with trade restrictions. Several other countries’ efforts to support the resolution were halted by U.S. intervention as well, according to officials from Uruguay, Mexico and the United States. When Russia decided to adopt the resolution, however, the U.S. did not oppose with threats.  

Some believe the intentions behind this opposition is to support the $70 billion industry of breastmilk alternatives. With decreasing sales in affluent countries due to more women breastfeeding, opposing the resolution may reintroduce lost revenue to this market. Many of those who believe this to be the driving force behind American resistance to the resolution are unhappy with the U.S. action. The policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action claims he is “astonished” and “appalled” by this opposition.  

The State Department wished not to publicize private diplomatic discussions, however the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gave their explanation for opposing the resolution. An HHS spokesperson states that the wording of the resolution “placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children.” They go on to express that many women are unable to breastfeed, and that to condemn them for purchasing products that they require is inappropriate.  

The final resolution maintained most of its initial structure, with wording removed in relation to the World Health Organization providing technical support to members attempting to stop “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.” 

Source: NY Times