Protecting women’s and children’s health and human rights in the ‘first food’ system: commercial influence and conflicts of interest on infant and young child feeding in Australia

Crawford School of Public Policy | Tax and Transfer Policy Institute
Image sourced from Catherine Constable

Event details


Date & time

Monday 15 February 2021


ANU Online Zoom Meeting


Various - see program in 'downloads' tab


Diane Paul
02 61259318

Please note this event will be recorded.
The audio recordings, program, and Zoom invitation is available in the ‘downloads’ tab above.

The webinar will focus on the commercial influence and conflicts of interest on infant and young child nutrition in Australia, and how effective implementation of the WHO International Code can help end the inappropriate promotion and improve gender equality.

There is consensus that breastfeeding is a human right and governments should take urgent action to stop “misleading, aggressive and inappropriate” marketing of breast-milk substitutes in a multi-billion-dollar global industry. Authoritative health guidance emphasises that breastfeeding should be protected, supported and encouraged – both during emergencies and in normal times. However, companies have stepped up their inappropriate promotion of infant formula and breastmilk substitutes for infants and young children during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Marketing practices often impede women’s desires and decisions on breastfeeding and can stop both babies and mothers from enjoying its many health benefits. A ‘level playing field’ for women to breastfeed means matching the resources and opportunities available to the powerful global baby food industry to promote breastmilk substitutes (BMS), create conflicts of interest for health professionals, and influence research, policy and health care practice.

Our online webinar program aims to galvanise efforts to improve breastfeeding policies and funding in national budgets, by applying gender budgeting and World Breastfeeding Trends initiative (WBTi) tools to Australian policy.

Australia has endorsed the WHO International Code on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, but implementation has been weak and partial. Marketing of milk formula products is pervasive including online and through the health system. Australia implements the Code mostly through banning nutrition and health claims on infant formula products, providing guidelines for health workers on infant feeding, and allowing major industry participants to agree amongst themselves on how to restrain their marketing to the public and to health workers and facilities. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is currently considering extending this Agreement for another ten years.

The 2019 Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy calls for an end to the inappropriate promotion of infant formula and breastmilk substitutes, and for more evidence-based health professional education and training on breastfeeding that is free from commercial influence, but will effective action be taken?

The forthcoming webinar on Monday, 15 February will focus on protecting women’s and children’s human rights in Australia by addressing commercial influence and conflicts of interest on infant and young child feeding. It will develop themes from our 2020 webinars on ‘Gender Responsive Budgeting and Progressing Breastfeeding Policy’, and ‘Protecting Women’s Reproductive Rights in Policy and Resourcing decisions – the Need for ‘Data and Dollars’ to consider how gender-responsive budgeting for WHO International Code implementation could end inappropriate BMS promotion in Australia and improve gender equality.

International and national experts in human rights, gender budgeting, corporate political activity and food marketing, and conflicts of interest in healthcare will provide informed commentary on addressing gender inequality by progressing implementation of the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy.

We acknowledge and thank the The Gender Institute, ANU for funding. We also appreciate the support of Save the Children UK, and the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative, Breastfeeding Promotion Network Of India.

Updated:  5 October 2022/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team