The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised concern over the digital marketing techniques being used by formula milk companies to influence how families feed their babies.
Director of the WHO Nutrition and Food Safety Department, Dr Francesco Branca believes the promotion strategies should have been abandoned a long time ago because they are aggressive and end up talking mothers out of exclusive breastfeeding.
“The promotion of commercial milk formulas should have been terminated decades ago,” he said.
“The fact that formula milk companies are now employing even more powerful and insidious marketing techniques to drive up their sales is inexcusable and must be stopped,” he added.
The global public health body says the aggressive marketing of breast-milk substitutes is meant to dissuade mothers from exclusive breastfeeding.
The marketing techniques have also been cited for reinforcing myths about breastfeeding and breast milk and undermining women’s confidence in their ability to breastfeed successfully.
According to a WHO report, the formula milk industry is using mobile applications, virtual support clubs, paid social media influencers, advice forums and promotions to buy or collect personal information and thereafter send personalised promotions to pregnant women and new mothers.
The report states that out of four million social media posts about infant feeding published between January and June 2021, over two billion people were reached and more than 12 million likes, shares or comments generated which according to WHO, it is in blatant breach of the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes which was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981.