The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has raised the alarm over the continued violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes (BMS) and national regulations by manufacturers of BMS products.
NAFDAC spoke at the media workshop on: ‘Compliance with the Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitute’.
At the event were Fhi360- Alive and Thrive FHI-360 by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
NAFDAC also warned that violators of the code would be jailed for a period of two years while companies would forfeit the offending items on conviction.
According to NAFDAC’s Director-General, Prof. Christianah Adeyeye the knowledge and lack of awareness of stakeholders, including the media, have also contributed to the gravity of violations.
Mrs Adeyeye said it was time for the regulatory agency and relevant partners to address what she described as an unpleasant situation through effective sensitisation.
Represented by the Deputy Director, Food System and Applied Nutrition, NAFDAC, Abdulsalam Ozigis she said for better Code compliance, it was essential to note that the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981, WHA 34.22; 1981.
She said: “Nigeria voted for Code adoption and was, therefore, expected to implement all its provisions in their entirety as a minimum requirement for its implementation through appropriate national measures including legislation. National legislation to implement the Code may, therefore, be stronger but, certainly, not weaker than its provisions.
“Since the adoption of the Code, and to strengthen and further clarify some of its provisions, several subsequent relevant World Health Assembly, WHA resolutions have been adopted to ensure the achievement of the principles and aims of the Code. On the health and economic benefits of optimal breastfeeding, said that it would prevent no fewer than 103,742 infant deaths in the country.’’
NAFDAC Deputy Director, Eva Edwards said BMS would prevent optimal infant and young child feeding through promotion, protection and support for exclusive breastfeeding.
Edwards said the significance of appropriate infant and young child feeding and its subsequent effect on national economic development cannot be overemphasised.
“There are countless challenges encumbering its actualisation. Such challenges are the continuous violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes (BMS) and national regulations by manufacturers of BMS products. The knowledge and lack of awareness of stakeholders including the media, has also contributed to the gravity of violations currently being practised in Nigeria.
“This has necessitated the need for the regulatory agency in collaboration with relevant partners to aggressively address this unpleasant situation through interventions including effective sensitisation of all stakeholders. By the provisions of Act 22 of 1999, NAFDAC is specifically designated as the Regulatory Agency concerned with Code implementation, enforcement and monitoring in Nigeria,” she explained.
Patricia Monwuba, Deputy Director of NAFDAC said breastfeeding is the natural and normal way to provide optimal nutritional, immunological and emotional nurturing for the growing and development of infants.
Monwuba said: “No artificial baby milk is the same as breast milk in terms of nutrients, enzymes, growth factors, hormones, immunological and anti-inflammatory properties or in infant growth and development outcomes.
“Breastfeeding also contributes to women’s health by reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and it also helps to increase the spacing between pregnancies. Breastfeeding provides social and economic benefits to the family and the nation.’’
Codes that guide BMS include, according to her, “No free samples to mothers; no promotion of products in healthcare facilities including the distribution of free or low-cost supplies and there should be no advertising of any of these products to the public.
“No company sales representatives to advise mothers; no gifts or personal samples to health workers; no words or pictures idealising artificial feeding or pictures of infants on labels of infant milk containers.’’
Monwuba said information to health workers should be scientific and factual, adding: “Also, all information on artificial infant feeding, including the ones on labels should explain the benefits of breastfeeding and the costs and hazards associated with artificial feeding. Unsuitable products, such as sweetened condensed milk should not be promoted for babies.
“Manufacturers and distributors should comply with the code’s provisions even if countries have not adopted laws or other measures,’’ she said.
NAFDAC Assistant Director Mrs Ummulkhairi Bobboi said there were penalties for those who violated the code.
She said: “A person who contravenes any provision of these regulations is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction with warning letters for first offenders.”
Bobbi pleaded for support to mothers before pregnancy, during pregnancy and after delivery to ensure that proper nutrition for child through breast milk.
“Help in support the initiative of breastfeeding within the first hour as soon as a woman delivers, she encourage everyone in a family to support in that activities for the mother to exclusively breastfeed without water.
“Other fines include seizure of offending articles for destruction, administrative fines, closure of business premises, prosecution of recalcitrant offenders, leading to fines from N150,000 – N2,000,000 and jail term not exceeding six months, as appropriate,’’ Bobboi said.
Head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health Dr Chris Isokpunwu, represented by Mrs Thompson Chimay, urged workplaces to adopt the national policy on maternity/paternity entitlement.
She said this could be achieved by establishing crèches/breastfeeding corner for working mothers and creating conducive and flexible free working hours for breastfeeding mothers and caregivers.
He said this would ensure optimal Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition and Family planning (MIYCN).
The Nation News