Voluntary infant formula code prompts debate in Australia

Voluntary infant formula code prompts debate in Australia

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has called for the country's voluntary infant formula marketing code to be re-authorised in a move that has drawn criticism from breast feeding campaigners. 

The Infant Nutrition Council's Marketing in Australia of Infant Formula Agreement (MAIF Agreement) is a voluntary, self-regulatory code governing the marketing of infant formula products. The Infant Nutrition Council represents manufacturers and importers of infant formula in Australia and the code has been in effect since 1992.  

“The MAIF Agreement is a cost-effective way to help protect and promote breastfeeding in Australia,” ACCC commissioner Delia Rickard said. “Breastfeeding of infants provides real health benefits to Australian society, and this industry agreement promotes and protects breastfeeding by restricting inappropriate advertising of infant formula.”

The re-authorisation of the code has, however, been criticised by the Australian Breastfeeding Association, which argued that it “does not protect optimal breastfeeding effectively in Australia”. 

In its submission to the ACCC, the ABA stressed that the current agreement excludes toddler milks, growing up milks and complementary foods being sold as suitable for introduction before six months of age. The ABA was critical of the voluntary nature of the code and said that the complaints and tribunal system under the agreement ia an inadequate enforcement mechanisms because it has no power to impose penalties.

The ACCC is seeking submissions of interest before reaching a final decision.