04 August 2023

Industry Response to The Lancet Series on Breastfeeding – Ensuring access to optimum nutrition requires a holistic approach

Brussels, 4 August 2023 - In a joint letter to the editor of The Lancet published today[1], the Secretary Generals of International Special Dietary Foods Industries (ISDI) and Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE) emphasise that a holistic approach is required to increase breastfeeding rates, including strengthening maternity leave, workplace policies and funding.

The joint ISDI-SNE letter responds to the ‘2023 Lancet series on breastfeeding’, authored by WHO representative Nigel Rollins et al[2], which creates the misleading impression that advertising is the main factor limiting breastfeeding. The series also addressed engagement with healthcare professionals and digital marketing. ISDI and SNE also take this opportunity to encourage WHO to rally all stakeholders, including the private sector, at policy debates on infant and early childhood nutrition, such as the recent ‘WHO Global Congress on Implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes’ (20-22 June)[3].

“An all-inclusive, supportive ecosystem involving multiple stakeholders is required to encourage breastfeeding and to improve nutritional outcomes for mothers, infants and young children. Such an approach includes transparent, science-based interactions with healthcare professionals, who require access to information about our industry’s products”, explains Jean-Christophe Kremer, Secretary General of ISDI.

“Over the years, improvements in maternal, infant and young-child nutritional health have been achieved through effective collaboration with healthcare professionals. We agree with paediatricians and medical societies who favour transparent interaction with our industry. This interaction must be carried out in compliance with professional and ethical standards”, added Beat Späth, Secretary General of SNE. ISDI, SNE and various national trade associations have been working to ensure compliance with such standards within their industry, inter alia with their Codes of Practice.

In conclusion, our industry welcomes all opportunities to work constructively with all relevant stakeholders, including policymakers and healthcare professionals, to promote evidence-based policies, ethical frameworks and parent and caregiver support to improve infant and young-child health and nutrition outcomes.

[1] Jean-Christophe Kremer, Beat Späth: Breastfeeding and the role of the commercial milk formula industry, published August 05, 2023 in The Lancet;

[2] Rollins N, Piwoz E, Baker P, Kingston G, Mabaso KM, McCoy D, Ribeiro Neves PA, Pérez-Escamilla R, Richter L, Russ K, Sen G, Tomori C, Victora CG, Zambrano P, Hastings G; 2023 Lancet Breastfeeding Series Group. Marketing of commercial milk formula: a system to capture parents, communities, science, and policy. Lancet. 2023 Feb 11;401(10375):486-502. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(22)01931-6. Epub 2023 Feb 7. PMID: 36764314.

[3] ; See also ISDI Statement “Working together to support optimum infant nutrition and informed infant feeding choices” (19 June 2023).