Thursday, May 13, 2010

Should infant formula be banned?

According to the Minister of Health of South Africa, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, infant formula should be banned from the country. Dr. Motsoaledi recently addressed researchers, academics and health care workers at the launch of the Health of Our Children Report in Cape Town. He said infant formula is no different than skin bleaching creams, in terms of the damage they cause to health and well-being, and should therefore be banned (bleaching creams are currently banned in South Africa).

Dr. Motsoaledi even went a step further and said infant formula should be "banned altogether--throughout the whole world." In fact, he says he will bring the issue up at the World Health Assembly next week, where one of the main goals is working towards decreasing infant mortality rates.

To put this in perspective, Dr. Motsoaledi works in a country where the infant mortality rate has actually gotten worse. In South Africa, 7% of children die before their fifth birthday. It was just 5% twenty years ago. There are of course several things that come into play with this statistic, including war, famine, lack of access to life-saving vaccines, HIV and of course lower breastfeeding rates. Dr. Motsoaledi used to work with poor women and said they would look for "any excuse" not to breastfeed, but that breastfeeding was also difficult because they needed to return to work quickly in order to earn money to take care of their families. In addition to calling for the ban on formula, he also said women should be receiving 4 months' paid maternity leave.

So what do you think, should infant formula be banned? Can you see an exception for a country like South Africa, where lack of breastfeeding is a dire, life and death issue? Or should be infant formula be banned world-wide?

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