With the financial interests of infant-formula manufacturers as its purported motivation, the USA delegation at a meeting of the United Nations -affiliated World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva in May tried to weaken a widely supported resolution calling for governments to support breast-feeding, the New York Times' Andrew Jacobs reports. Under pressure from the infant formula industry, US officials threatened retaliatory trade and military measures if Ecuador moved forward, according to the Times.
The Times says this scenario was verified by several other delegates present, many of whom requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from the U.S. It was only when Russian Federation introduced the resolution that American officials backed off. Just one portion, calling on the World Health Organization to provide support to member states seeking to halt "inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children", was removed.
"The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breast feeding must be called out. The United States has a long history of supporting mothers and breastfeeding around the world and is the largest bilateral donor of such foreign assistance programs", the statement said.
A controversial passage apparently sought to strengthen enforcement and monitoring of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, which was originally adopted in 1981. "It's supposed to move pretty smoothly because all of this work has been done in advance", she said.
Many American women agree, saying the cultural mandate to breastfeed no matter their personal circumstances and zealous hospital lactation programs is another example of how women's bodies are not their own to manage.
Breastfeeding has always been touted as the preferred source of food for infants, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreeing that babies who are breastfed have reduced risks of asthma, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Most of the sources requested anonymity because they feared retaliation from USA officials. Infant formula companies "use aggressive, clandestine and often illegal methods to target mothers in the poorest parts of the world to encourage them to choose powdered milk over breastfeeding", the report said.
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While the USA delegates largely went along with the crowd two years ago, they made sure the resolution was only "welcomed" at the World Health Assembly, as opposed to "endorsed".
The Department of Health and Human Services, which said it did not threaten Ecuador, defended its decision to push back against the resolution.
Those risks include creating the formula precisely as instructed, storing it safely and cleaning and sanitizing bottles so the infant doesn't get sick. While the sales of baby formula have been flat in the West over the last few years, they were on the rise in developing countries. And that is especially true when there's a $45 billion global business like infant formula at stake.