Breast vs bottle: the new battleground

Just as the Department of Health is trying to promote breastfeeding, food giant Nestlé, makers of powdered baby milk, is forging links with the Government.

Efforts to encourage more women to breastfeed are being threatened by "aggressive" lobbying directed at the Government by the baby milk manufacturing industry, campaigners warned yesterday.

The powdered milk manufacturer Nestlé has forged formal links with the Department of Health and took a ministerial aide on an all-expenses-paid trip to South Africa, The Independent on Sunday has discovered.

To coincide with the start of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week today, the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, is under pressure to encourage mothers to give their babies breast milk beyond six months. Evidence suggests it helps curb obesity in the poorest families and prevents illness.

Children's charities also want the Government to impose an outright ban on the promotion of powdered formula milk because they claim it encourages women to stop breastfeeding too early.
A ban on advertising infant formula for babies up to six months was introduced in the UK in January. Ministers are considering whether to extend the ban to follow-on formula milk products.

An investigation by the IoS has uncovered strong ties between Nestlé, the world's largest baby milk manufacturer, and the Department of Health. Rosie Cooper, a parliamentary private secretary to the Health minister Ben Bradshaw, is undergoing a year-long Industry and Parliament Trust fellowship with Nestlé, and in February went for a week to South Africa as a guest of the group to oversee its corporate social responsibility activities.

Critics said it was "very worrying" that a member of the Government was working so closely with Nestlé, which is trying to break into the mainstream baby milk market in the UK.

Source - Independent

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