By Morris Aron
The Kenya Association of Manufacturers is up in arms over the proposed Breast Milk Substitutes (Regulation and Control) Bill 2012, saying it does not serve the objective of improving children’s health.
In a statement, KAM said the Bill flouts the Constitution’s guarantee on the right to access information, as it limits communication from medical practitioners, proprietors and distributors due to a proposed regulation on labeling, advertising and education on breast milk substitutes.
“The Bill, if enacted into law in its current state, will impose restrictions on the marketing distribution and sale of breast milk substitutes in Kenya to the extent that labeling and giving out information on breast milk substitutes — even to medical practitioners — would be illegal,” said Betty Maina, the chief executive officer of KAM.
“Manufacturers are in no way opposed to breast feeding and are proponents of exclusive breast feeding for babies under six months, whenever possible. However, it is not rocket science that not all babies will have the opportunity to be breast feed. What happens to the babies whose mothers die during childbirth, or whose mothers are HIV positive? How will those children survive?”
If passed, the Bill will not identify any other substitute to breast milk the only feed.
KAM urges that as it is, there are a number of conditions that render breast milk substitutes the best feeding option for children born with low weight, pre-term infants, very low birth weight infants (those born weighing less than 1.5kg); newborn infants who are at risk of hypoglycemia by virtue of impaired metabolic adaptation, or increased glucose demand for pre-term infants.
Another category of children that maybe affected includes those who are ill and those whose mothers are diabetic.
Passing of the Bill without amendments will introduce regulation in the infant feed segment, but will ignore crucial aspects of infant nutrition, and the alternative foods for young children and how to handle them.