Letter to INFACT about Zellers and infant formula marketing.


     Zellers advertised formula in a flyer a few weeks ago. I along with a number of others contacted them to let them know this was in violation of the WHO code. The response I received back was that they were willing to change the wording on the flyer but the marketing department was unwilling to discontinue marketing formula as “there is a market for it.” This offends me greatly as I am an advocate for breastfeeding and will not support any company who markets breastfeeding substitutes to make a buck. I have let them know that I will no longer shop there and will spread the word. I am copying the message I received. As a point of interest, a number of other complainants also received the EXACT same response as I did which led us to believe they were not taking us seriously or had a robot answering! Anyway this is the information.


Mary Siever



Zellers’ response about their violation of the WHO Code.


Dear Ms. Siever,


     I apologize for the delay in responding to your concerns about our advertising of infant’s formula and feeding products. We appreciate the time you have taken to advise us of your comments and concerns. It is not Zellers’ intention to mislead our customers in any way that this is what’s best for baby. Unfortunately, we cannot cease advertising or carrying this merchandise as there is a large market for it; however due to the time you have taken to contact us, we will be making changes to the wording in the near future. I have discussed your concerns with our Marketing Department and they are in the process of making changes to future advertisements and going forward we will change the wording so that it will not give our customers the impression that it is “best” for baby. Once again, thank you for advising us of this.




Zellers Customer Service


Jack Newman’s letter to the Medical Post, responding to their article about West Nile virus.


To the editor,


     Your quick look at breaking news entitled “Breastfed baby has West Nile Virus” (Medical Post October 15, 2002), was a little too quick. It is possible, even likely, that the virus was passed in the milk, this is not an indication to stop breastfeeding in a mother who is infected with this virus (unless the severity of the illness makes continued nursing impossible). Unfortunately, that the mother should not continue breastfeeding is the conclusion that too many physicians will make.

     In the first place, the viremia almost certainly occurs before the mother is even aware that she is sick, and only when there is viremia is it possible for a virus to get into the milk. Thus the baby would have been “infected” before it was rational (but incorrect) to stop breastfeeding. Secondly, the issue is that the baby remained healthy. Not only that, it is possible he was even immunized against the virus. This is what breastfeeding is about, at least some of what it is about. Breastfeeding doesn’t prevent  infection, it helps prevent the illness which may occur as a result of infection. This is what we want, isn’t it? This is why we promote immunizations isn’t it?

     The Medical Post article, coming hard on the heels of the completely irresponsible CNN and New York Times coverage should have made this point. We already have too many mothers being told to stop breastfeeding, unnecessarily, for maternal illness, maternal medication use, and infant illness.


Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC



Letter to Loblaws critiquing their promotional booklet, Baby Matters.


Dear Customer Service,


     I picked up your magazine, Baby Matters, read it over, and decided to give you some consumer feedback.

     Your information appears to be neutral but in many subtle ways it diminishes the value of breastfeeding. For example, the introduction states “Breastmilk gives resistance to some diseases.” When, in fact, it fights against many diseases, some of them very serious and life-threatening.

     I found it misleading that you use the word “convenient” to head your paragraph about protection from diarrhea. Proper sterilization of bottles, nipples etc. will not necessarily protect the formula-fed baby from diarrhea. However, properties in a mother’s breastmilk actually fight off any bacteria that is introduced.

     You mention the mother is a portable food source as though breasts are equal to bottles, ignoring that breastfeeding is much more than putting food in a babies mouth. There is a tactile, comforting connection that soothes baby and provides security. The hormones released in the mother calm both mother and baby.

     As I look through your booklet I see many advertisements; President’s Choice Formula, Enfalac, Nestlé, Heinz, and Gerber. Their interest is focused in the making of sales, not in the promotion of breastfeeding and optimal baby health.

     Perhaps you are unaware that The World Health Organization developed the International Code for the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. You are in violation of this code by publishing these ads and coupons in Baby Matters and I feel that you should remove this publication from your stores.



Megan Gill Vander Wielen



Letter (translated from french) to a pharmacist whose store added a Nestlé Good Start display.


Mr. Edouard Malak

2595, rue Salaberry


H3M 1L1


     I like to shop at your pharmacy. Your store is clean and employees are very courteous. However I was very disappointed on July 25th when I saw a Nestlé display in the baby products section. This video and coupons for the Good Start programme promote infant formulas.

     I am sure you are unaware that this practice is in direct violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions to which Canada is a signatory. The International Code states that there should be no point-of-sale advertising, giving of samples, or any other promotion device to induce sales directly to the consumer at the retail level, such as special displays, discount coupons, premiums, special sales, loss leaders and tie-in sales, for products within the scope of this Code (Art 5.3).

    I am confident you will take action to rectify this situation and look forward to hearing from you soon.



Annie Desrochers


 “And today, the owner called me! He said he really didn’t know that this was illegal. He said that the material wasn’t his but Nestle’s. The company came to them with the idea and all the stuff (VCR, coupons, display). He also mentioned that the store’s policy wasn’t to promote artificial milk (“powder milk” were his actual words). He was very polite and apologized but didn’t mention once if they would do it again. I went to this pharmacy today and the display wasn’t there... Coincidence?”



Letter to INFACT about Wal-Mart’s “washroom lunchette.”


     Friday, September 13, 2002, I asked a Wal-Mart employee (Lethbridge, Alberta, store) to open a dressing room for me so that I could nurse my baby. She responded, apologetically, that she was not allowed to provide access to a fitting room for a woman to breastfeed. I politely inquired whether there was a designated room for nursing mothers. She did not believe so. I immediately requested access to try on clothes. She was firm in her refusal. I went straight to Customer Service to speak with a store manager. I was incredulous to say the least. It had never occurred to me that any store would have a specific policy against nursing in a dressing room. The store manager calmly assured me that the dressing room attendant had responded in accordance with store policy. Then, calmly informed me, “We prefer you do it in the washroom.” I asked if it would be acceptable to feed my baby from a bottle in a location other than the washroom. My disbelief must have been conveyed via the look on my face, for he quickly added, “You are welcome to use a dressing room if you want.” I thanked him and asked that he call over to the attendant to let her know. I then returned to the dressing room and nursed my daughter. I am still trying to reach Wal-Mart Canada to inquire as to their policy on breastfeeding.

     Thank you for the work you do to promote breastfeeding.





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