UK-based charity Save the Children has attacked international baby food manufacturers for continuing to market breast milk substitutes.

Suggesting that companies routinely flout a UN-approved code governing the marketing of milk and baby food, Save the Children said that almost 1.4m children die each year because they are not fed breast milk.

"It's incomprehensible why - when we know that breastfeeding can make the single biggest contribution to a baby's survival - that companies, for over 25 years, have been allowed to flout a UN-approved code with little fear of retribution," Jasmine Whitbread, Save the Children chief executive, said.

Save the Children said that it hopes to increase pressure on baby food manufacturers "to put children before profits".

The charity said that it has actively engaged with baby food manufacturers to encourage more ethical practices. Gerber recently became the first company to meet the FTSE4Good index. However, since its acquisition by Nestlé, the group has fallen off the FTSE4Good list.

"We must engage with baby milk manufacturers to convince them to put children before profits. Children cannot wait another generation until this is fixed. All food companies, governments, the WHO and UNICEF must put their full weight behind the code," Whitbread concluded.