'Ban milk ads in hospitals, clinics'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 June, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 June, 1999, 12:00am

Health workers have called on manufacturers of baby milk products to stop advertising in hospitals and doctors' waiting rooms and clinics.

They say the practice is illegal in many other countries.

They also say the manufacturers regularly distribute discount coupons which violate a World Health Organisation code designed to promote breastfeeding.

Parents are contacted regularly by the firms through mother and baby clubs, and the manufacturers have advertised in public places, all of which also violated the code, the health workers say.

The International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes has not been adopted as law in the SAR.

Dr Patricia Ip Lai-sheung, vice-chairman of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Hong Kong Association, said: 'Some hospitals and private medical practitioners are being used as vehicles for commercial promotion by firms distributing gifts and discount gimmicks.' She said they placed advertising leaflets in private medical clinics and produced books on breastfeeding for hospitals which also advertised formula feeding.

The companies, from around the world, also promote 'follow-on' milk formulas in Hong Kong for babies aged about four months regardless of whether they have been breast-fed or not.

The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to six months old because of the health benefits.

Dr Ip added: 'Most infant formula companies profess they are adhering to the code in Hong Kong and the Government has seen no need to legislate on it.'