Lancet: Unethical Marketing Practices Target Parents, Providers, Policymakers

February 20, 2023

Breastfeeding provides significant health benefits for both mothers and babies, regardless of income levels. For lactation advocates, this information is common knowledge.

And yet worldwide rates of human milk feeding do not meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations. The commercial infant formula industry has perpetuated this issue through their unethical marketing techniques that prey on parents’ fears and worries, turning infant feeding into a lucrative business that generates around $55 billion annually.

The Lancet, a journal of medical science, published a three-part series of articles this month that sheds light on the multifaceted and highly effective strategies employed by commercial formula manufacturers to target not only parents but also healthcare professionals and policymakers.

According to the journal, the industry’s unscrupulous marketing practices — which are in violation of the WHO Code — are further compounded by their efforts to influence governments to undermine breastfeeding protection laws and food regulations. It is essential for governments, healthcare providers, and parents to be aware of these manipulative tactics and to work towards promoting and protecting breastfeeding to improve the health outcomes of both infants and mothers.

Article authors believe stronger implementation of the WHO Code and improved regulations and policies can help achieve this goal.

The series includes the following articles:

  • Unveiling the predatory tactics of the formula milk industry; The Lancet (editorial)
  • Breastfeeding: crucially important, but increasingly challenged in a market-driven world, Pérez-Escamilla et al.
  • Marketing of commercial milk formula: a system to capture parents, communities, science, and policy; Rollins et al.
  • The political economy of infant and young child feeding: confronting corporate power, overcoming structural barriers, and accelerating progress; Baker et al.

Click here to read the complete series.