I went to a baby expo with Chubs recently. Actually, we went twice. Why did I decide to go to such a consumer-fest when I had no intention of spending money? Well, I was keen for free samples of nappies et cetera, and there were free kiddy concerts and activities. I had a free entry ticket (door price $14) so for the cost of a train fare in and back it was good for a rainy day.
I knew what I was going to find, and sure enough - WHO Code breaches as far as the eye can see. In Australia formula for under 12 months cannot be advertised, however the formula companies found their way around that, as ever.
Here are the 'generous' gifts they showered me with.
- A branded reusable bag (branded with the 'baby club')
- A branded colouring book
- A branded cooler bag
- A whole stash of 'advice' leaflets.
- a branded reuseable bag
- a branded colouring book
- a pack of branded crayons in a branded colouring tube
- a sample of toddler formula
- more 'advice' pamphlets
|See how the logo is on each and every crayon, too?|
The cooler bag from Nestle is one of my 'favourites'. Just like branded scale mats and branded breast pads, a cool bag is perhaps one of the worst items which could be branded by a formula company. When is it likely that a parent would be packing a cool bag which is the perfect size for a day's worth of bottles? Possibly when the child is heading off to day care, which is likely to coincide with Mum's return to work. Continuing breastfeeding while working is almost always possible at least in part, but depending on your circumstances it can be anything from super easy to really. damn. hard. So when things get tough and you're packing bottle for day care and you're stressed about if you'll have time to pump at lunch time and if you've recharged the pump batteries, there's the friendly little blue bear there on the cool bag as a reminder.
Yes, these packs did contain lots of advice saying how breast is best and that the WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and that you should talk to your health professional before using infant formula. Well, some of it did. The stuff that has to, that is.
Firstly, if you look closely, you will see that the logos are either for a baby club, or for the toddler formula. As I said above, advertising of infant formula is not allowed, but toddler formula is. The toddler formula logos look very similar to the infant (0 - 6 month) and follow on (6 - 12 month) formula logos, which is very intentional. By advertising the almost-identical logos of toddler formula, then there is recognition of the advertising-prohibited logos at the point of sale. Toddler formula has no extra nutrition that a child couldn't get from a cup of full cream cows' milk and a multivitamin (which would be much cheaper) but it's the advertising loophole that it exists to jump through.
The other logo that you see a lot is the baby club. This is linked to the 'advice' pamphlets too. These are dangerous for two reasons. Firstly, they are dangerous because it promotes the idea that these companies have babies' health as a priority. (If this was the case, then why do they not follow the guidelines to protect their health which they know aren't enforced under law?) Secondly, 'information services' such as baby clubs, pamphlets and help lines are clearly and specifically defined as marketing.
"Marketing" means product promotion, distribution, selling, advertising, product public relations, and information services.Now, I did have to give the formula companies something in order to get my 'free' gifts. My all important email address, and the ages of my children/ estimated due dates. I needed to answer a whole series of questions about my baby - none of the nappy companies wanted to know any of that before they gave me their samples. They wanted all that information so that they can fill my inbox with age appropriate 'advice' - which can be timed to when things are probably going bad.
Article 3 International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes
You'll notice that I said above that they only had the 'breast is best' spiel when they had to? Despite the fact that breastfeeding is recommened until two years and beyond, there is no mention of the 'breast is best' stuff on the sample of S26 Gold Toddler in my goodie bag. (And yes, giving out samples is against the WHO Code, too.) If Wyeth really thought that 'breastmilk is best for your baby' then why aren't they saying that on a sample for babies over 12 months - because the law doesn't make them.
So why did I get the bags? Well, to be honest, I wanted to share these unethical practises with my blog readers to expose them. I knew very well what would happen if I went into the baby expo. What will I do with the stuff? As much as I hate throwing useable things away since it's wasteful, I used the perfect- condition bags as bin liners; the garbage truck will pick them up in the morning. The Nestle colouring book and all the 'advice' marketing got tossed too. The crayons I've kept since I do love the tube - I'll see if I can cover it over somehow? The cool bag is actually the perfect size for Chubs' lunchbox (not the one I send her to daycare with, but the sections one that she eats from throughout the day if we're out and about.) It's really good quality too, so I'm going to see if I can cover the logo up somehow. The S26 sample? I'll mix it up and give it to Chubs one day instead of the soy milk or cows' milk she would have had otherwise, maybe on her breakfast cereal - but I can assure you that I won't be buying a tin any time soon.
Do I expect to change the world by whinging about a few sample bags? Well, like anything, probaby not. But if it makes a few more people aware of the sneakiness that goes on and to look at these giveaways a little more cynically and with a little more caution, well you know wht they say. They ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who sometimes do.
PS - no reply back yet from the pharmacy CEO...