May 26, 2009

Canadian Paediatric Society allies with formula companies

The upcoming CPS annual conference is being sponsored in part by some of the world’s biggest formula companies. Abbot Nutrition, Mead Johnson and Wyeth are listed as sponsors of the event, and all three companies, along with Nestlé, will be exhibitors at the event.

These four companies have been aggressively marketing infant formula for decades, and have actively undermined child health. For a group claiming to be Canada’s foremost child health organization to enter into a relationship with them is highly inappropriate. Clearly this sponsorship compromises the CPS’s ability to promote breastfeeding and advance the health of children.

According to its own Code of Ethics, the CPS desires to “put the needs of children above all else.” It is difficult to see how forming partnerships with formula companies serves the needs of children. On the other hand, the formula companies will benefit from the PR of being allied with paediatricians, and the CPS will receive financial support to stage its conference. It is children that will lose out.

As long as Canada’s health organizations are not fully committed to supporting breastfeeding, infant health in this country will remain far from optimal. Please write to the CPS and ask them to reconsider their relationship with the formula companies. Write your own letter or copy INFACT Canada’s below.

Direct your letters to:

Marie Adèle Davis, Executive Director
Wendy Eligh, Annual Conference Manager

Marie Adèle Davis and Wendy Eligh
Executive Director
Canadian Paediatric Society
2305 St. Laurent Blvd.
Ottawa, ON K1G 4J8

Dear Ms. Davis and Ms. Eligh

It has come to our attention that the upcoming CPS annual conference is accepting sponsorship from Abbot Nutrition, Mead Johnson and Wyeth. Along with Nestlé Nutrition, all three companies are also listed as exhibitors. As an organization that is dedicated to advocating for the health needs of children, I would ask that you reconsider the appropriateness of allowing these companies to promote themselves at your conference.

Abbott, Nestlé, Mead Johnson and Wyeth are four of the biggest companies in the infant formula industry. For years the industry, and these companies specifically, have been marketing their products in violation of international guidelines. Their aggressive promotion of infant formula has undermined breastfeeding rates in Canada and abroad. They have refused to abide by the terms of the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, a measure endorsed by the international community and UNICEF to protect breastfeeding and reduce infant and young child mortality and morbidity.

These companies’ marketing malpractice is ongoing. Nestlé has just launched a formula brand in Canada that the company says can provide infants with the same protection against disease as breastmilk. There is no scientific evidence to support this claim, and yet massive advertising campaigns have been launched to convince Canadian mothers that Nestlé’s formula contains the same vital ingredients as breastmilk.

That the CPS forms partnerships with these companies even while they are actively engaged in undermining breastfeeding does not further the society’s goal of improving child health. Instead, it lends credibility to dishonest companies and presents a blatant conflict of interest to Canadian paediatricians. The CPS cannot accept sponsorship from formula companies on one hand and then expect to effectively promote breastfeeding on the other.

The CPS Code of Ethics says that the society has always worked to “put the needs of children above all else.” Allowing these companies to participate in your conference serves the needs of the infant formula industry, not the needs of children.

We respectfully request that the CPS not form any partnerships with formula companies and suggest that the CPS familiarize itself with its own obligations under the Code, specifically WHA Resolution 49.15 which states “financial support for professionals working in infant and young child health [should] not create conflicts of interest.”

I look forward to your response.


Elisabeth Sterken
National Director