A mobile application was launched to help people report the inappropriate promotion of marketed baby food around them, by enabling them to click pictures of advertisements, displays of such products and send them to an NGO which then may take required legal action.
The app, Stanpan Suraksha, developed by a breastfeeding protection watchdog, Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI), also allows the users to take assistance from a number of trained breastfeeding counsellors, during their during antenatal and postnatal period.
The app was launched by Minister of Tribal Affairs Jual Oram, A.V. Swamy, Member of Parliament, and Arun Kumar Panda, Additional Secretary - Health and Family Welfare and Mission Director, National Health Mission.
A report on the baby food formulae being unethically promoted by e-commerce sites and the baby food industry was also launched along with the app, which revealed many instances where the staff at the health facilities did not seek consent of the mothers before administering the formula to babies.
According to an online survey done by BPNI among 950 women who had given birth in private hospitals, it was revealed that babies of more than half of such women were given baby formula and at least two-thirds out of them had been given that without any attempt to seek the consent of the mother.
"Baby food industry has allegedly violated the Infant Milk Substitutes, (IMS) Act, 1992, at least 54 times if not more, between 2008 and 2016 before being brought to the attention of the government regulatory authorities," BPNI said in a statement issued by it.
"Promotion of any kind, for 0-2 years of age of children, of baby foods and feeding bottles, including advertisements, inducements on sales, pecuniary benefits to doctors or their associations including sponsorship is banned under the IMS Act," it said.
Among the top violaters of the Act, it named Nestle, Abbot, Heinz and Dannone, for continuing to mislead the mothers through various tactics.
BPNI reckoned Nestle's decision to set up 1,000 exclusive breastfeeding rooms in 150 cities and help raise "superbabies" as indirectly promoting infant formula mik, and violating section 7 of the IMS act that bars companies from entering healthcare facilities.
It also mentioned the misleading claims being found on the lables on the baby formula containers.
"Danone Nutritia 'Farex' infant formula uses health claims like brain development on its labels. As per the law, use of health claims is not allowed for such products of the company," the statement read.
Apart from objecting against the baby food industry players for their alleged malpractices, the report also cited the reasons for which we should be shunning such products and cause an awareness.
"According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), artificial feeding is an established risk factor for child health like causing more of diarrhoea, respiratory or newborn infections, allergies as well as obesity and adult health diseases like diabetes and heart disease," the statement said.
The BPNI in its recommendations urged government also to ensure that all hospitals have lactation counsellors to assist mothers during their antenatal and postnatal period.