China mulls breast feeding campaign, proposes ban on formula ads

World Today

Dairy products at a supermarket in Xuchang, Henan province. (Geng Guoqing for China Daily)

China’s top legislature began reviewing a draft amendment to the advertisement law, which proposes a ban on baby formula advertising to promote breast feeding.

“Dairy products, drinks and other food advertisements that claim to partly or completely substitute mother’s milk are [banned from] mass media or public venues,” the draft said.

The draft revision was submitted to the bimonthly legislative session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, which will run from Monday-Friday.

The proposal stipulates that advertisers, clients, agents and publishers that violate the rule could be fined up to 1 million yuan (163,260 U.S. dollars).

Many champions believe that breast feeding is the best source of nutrition for newborns, as it increases their immune systems and reduces the likelihood of obesity in adulthood.

However, only 28 percent of infants younger than 6 months were breast fed exclusively in China in 2008, well below the global average of about 40 percent, according to figures released by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) China.

Breast feeding rates might have increased in recent years as the government initiated measures to revive the practice, such as encouraging businesses to offer new mothers dedicated rooms to feed their infants or to express milk.

The State Council aims to raise the exclusive breast feeding rate to 50 percent by 2020, as outlined in its program for the development of women and children.

China’s infant formula market is set to grow to more than $30 billion by 2017, according to consultancy Euromonitor, making the country a magnet for dairy firms such as Danone SA, Mead Johnson Nutrition Co and New Zealand dairy exporter Fonterra Co-Operative Group Ltd.

Story compiled with information from Xinhua News and Reuters.