ACTION ALERT: McMaster Children’s Hospital seduced by Nestlé Nutrition Institute.
Hamilton’s prestigious McMaster Children’s Hospital is the latest health institution to fall under the seductive sway of Nestlé’s promise of money for nothing! According to the conference brochure, the two-day seminar, McMaster Children’s Hospital Nutrition Days – Integrating Nutrition into Family and Pediatric Practice, (June 3 & 4, 2005) is “Provided to you through an unrestricted educational grant from the Nestle Nutrition Institute.”
It may be unrestricted, but sponsorships of this nature transfer the positive image of health care institutions to the companies that sponsor events. Whether consciously or not, such transfers are often perceived as endorsements of a company’s product. In the case of infant formula, the well-documented risks associated with artificial feeding are glossed over by this image transfer.
On that note, we couldn’t help but notice the titles of some of the workshops, specifically, “Assessing Failure to Thrive in Breastfed Infants” and “Advances in Infant Formula.” Other subjects on the agenda include obesity, food allergies and “The Wounded Pediatric Gut” – all risks associated with formula feeding.
We’ve written a letter to McMaster Children’s Hospital President Dr. Peter Steer (firstname.lastname@example.org), and invite you to do the same. (Please see our letter below for salient points). While you’re at it, send copies to Dr. Alain Pavilanis (email@example.com), President of The College of Family Physicians of Canada, and Dr. Michel Brazeau (firstname.lastname@example.org), CEO of The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. Both organizations are issuing educational credits to attendees.
10 May 2005
Dr. Peter Steer
McMaster Children's Hospital
P.O. Box 2000
Dear Dr. Steer:
INFACT Canada has been notified by its members that the upcoming event, McMaster Children’s Hospital Nutrition Days – Integrating Nutrition into Family and Pediatric Practice, is being sponsored by the Nestlé Nutrition Institute. Such sponsorships are prohibited by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly. Even if the Nestlé Nutrition Institute has had no input into either the selection of speakers or the program content for the day, the perception is that your hospital has endorsed both the Nestlé organization and its products. Such endorsement has been shown to interfere with independent advice by health professionals who guide parents in decisions about infant feeding.
Feeding decisions are critical to the health outcomes of infants and young children. This is especially true for high-needs infants. Sponsorship by an infant formula company creates the perception that formula feeding is an option in interventions for the treatment of special needs infants. Many of the workshops offered at your event cover issues that are directly impacted by how babies are fed. These include pediatric obesity, food allergies and “The Wounded Pediatric Gut.” And while breastfeeding has been clinically proven to reduce the risk of these and many other childhood diseases and conditions, it should be noted, that it is “Advances in Infant Formula” that is the subject of one of your workshops. (I enclose, for your reference, “Fourteen Risk of Formula Feeding”, which provides evidence-based information about the risks associated with artificial feeding.)
The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes was adopted to prevent the interference of the infant foods industry in feeding decisions. Specifically, WHA Resolution 49.15 (2) states in its opening paragraphs,
“Concerned that health institutions and ministries may be subject to subtle pressure to accept, inappropriately, financial or other support for professional training in infant and child health;
And urges member states to take the following measures:
(2) to ensure that the financial support for professionals working in infant and young child health does not create conflicts of interest, especially with regard to the WHO/UNICEF Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative;
(3) to ensure that monitoring the application of the International Code and subsequent relevant resolutions is carried out in a transparent, independent manner, free from commercial influence;
This resolution has been re-affirmed in the current World Health Organization executive Board resolution EB115.R12, adopted January 24, 2005, which requires that,
“…financial support for professionals working in infant and young child health does not create conflicts of interest;
Because publicly funded hospitals, such as the McMaster Children’s Hospital, have a unique mandate to ensure the highest attainable standard of health care for infants and young children, the International Code requires that such institutions not be used as a conduit for the promotion of feeding practices that may prove to be harmful.
In light of all of the above, INFACT Canada respectfully requests that the McMaster Children’s Hospital:
We would be pleased to provide you with informational resources regarding the World Health Organization’s breastfeeding production standards and the Baby-Friendly Initiative. We await the favour of your reply.
National Director, BSc, MSc, Nutritionist
Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh, Minister of Health
George Smitherman, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
Marsha Sharp, Chief Executive Officer, Dietitians of Canada
INFACT Canada’s Board of Directors