Beijing is considering tightening restrictions on sales promotions and advertising for baby formula designed for infants younger than six months as part of a campaign to increase breastfeeding.
A draft plan on the management of breast-milk substitutes was posted on the website of the Ministry of Health yesterday for public comment. The plan aims to 'ensure the mental and physical health of mothers and babies', the ministry said.
It would ban the marketing of such formulas on TV, in newspapers and in movies. And formula packaging would need to carry reminders encouraging mothers to breastfeed.
It would also prohibit manufacturers of baby formula from offering promotions such as discounts and gifts, and from creating product displays or sending out brochures for formula intended for children younger than six months.
'There is a hyper-aggressive push to get the emerging market hooked on infant formula,' said Dale Rutstein, chief of communications for the United Nation's Children Fund in China.
'Our biggest concern is that the advertising of breast-milk substitutes is very aggressive.'
Infant formula makers advertise 'very seductive' claims about breast-milk substitutes, Rutstein said. Some even imply that children fed the powder will become geniuses or violin maestros, he said.
Zhang Junping, a chief obstetrics nurse at the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital of Fudan University, said that her hospital promoted breastfeeding, but she questioned whether the new plan would be strictly followed in lower-level hospitals.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg