WHO breastfeeding recommendations under attack from industry-funded scientists
Press release 14 January 2011
The BBC, the Guardian, The Times, The Sun and other media are carrying stories - about a comment piece from four authors published in the British Medical Journal today challenging World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation that breastfeeding is exclusive for 6 months (no other foods or drinks introduced). The media coverage implies that the challenge is based on new evidence. In fact this is not a new scientific study nor a systematic review, but the authors review of selected past research, published in the 'Comment' section of the BMJ.
Three of the four authors of the piece, Mary Fewtrell, Alan Lucas and David Wilson, receive funding from the baby food industry. The baby food industry marketing strategy is to encourage parents to move onto processed foods, rather than family foods, and promoting their introduction before 6 months generally requires feeding purees and paps, which parents are less likely to home prepare. The risks of early introduction of complementary foods have been known for many years, with the World Health Assembly adopting a Resolution in 1994 saying that complementary feeding should be fostered from 6 months (rather than 4-6 months).
Prof Lucas in particular plays a key role in advising the UK baby food industry, and has opposed the WHO recommendation for many years. In 2003 he went so far as to appear for the defence when one of the largest baby food companies, SMA Wyeth was successfully prosecuted for illegal advertising by Trading Standards. (for links to previous articles about Prof Lucas see below.
Professor Mary Renfrew, Director of the Mother and Infant Research Unit, University of York says:
Baby Milk Action expects this comment piece and the media coverage it is generating (see below) to be used by companies in their attempt to weaken national policies and legislation requiring complementary foods to be labelled for use from 6 months.