The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has warned infant foods producing companies from using the coronavirus pandemic as a means to promote their brands.
It gave this directive in a statement on, “COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and guidance note to companies that donate or market breastmilk substitutes for infants.”
NAFDAC stated that pursuant to provisions of the NAFDAC Act, CAP N1 LFN 2004 and the Marketing (Breast-Milk Substitutes) ACT CAP M.5 LFN 2004 and the BMS regulations, in keeping with the WHO International Code of BMS, wished to provide clarifications regarding donations of BMS in the context of lockdown and financial barriers occasioned by the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It stated, “Companies that market foods for infants and young children (breastmilk substitutes) should not provide free products, samples or reduced-price foods for infants (below six months old) to families through health workers or health facilities, except as supplies distributed through government or officially sanctioned health programmes.
“The WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes requires that products distributed in such programmes should not display company brands.
“In this specific instance, the unbranded packaging is to focus on the need to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where necessary in terms of infant and young child feeding, rather than use the pandemic as a platform for brand promotion.”
The agency advised all infant food manufacturers/distributors and non-governmental organisations wishing to make foods for infants and young children (BMS) available for distribution, through officially sanctioned health programmes, to adhere to the clarification provided and approach NAFDAC for the necessary guidance.
It noted that the importance of infant and young child feeding and the continued protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic could not be over-emphasised.
NAFDAC stated, “Breastmilk is the best food for the newborn child as it protects them from sicknesses, it also helps to protect infants and young children.
“Breastfeeding is especially effective against infectious diseases as it boosts the child’s immunity by directly transferring antibodies from the mother to the child.”