Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (CGBI)

CGBI: Breastfeeding Exclusive September 2018- WHO Code Training

In an effort to nurture our commitment to upholding the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (Code), CGBI staff attended a 3-day training hosted by  INFACT Canada in Toronto, Canada in May. The training was led by colleagues from UNICEF, the International Baby Food Action Network and the International Code Documentation Centre (ICDC) in Malaysia.

Participants in the training were from North America, both the US and Canada, and received tailored information related to their region. Day 1 of the training focused on an overview of the Code and its importance in protecting breastfeeding, along with discussions on how marketing works. The trainers focused more specifically in Day 2 on the essential provisions from each of the articles of the Code and the additional resolutions passed in subsequent biannual meetings of the World Health Assembly (WHA) since the Code’s adoption in 1981 by the WHA. The training continued a third day with lectures and discussions on conflicts of interest, the Codex infant food product standards, and specific challenges and opportunities for North America. A highlight of the training were the mock court cases conducted where participants teamed up and presented arguments to a judge on the potential violation of specific marketing examples.

What is the Code?

The Code is a set of recommendations designed to regulate the marketing of breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles, and teats.  It strengthens a country’s ability to protect and promote optimal feeding for infants and young children. Specifically, the Code aims to contribute to “the provision of safe and adequate nutrition of infants, by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breastmilk substitutes, when these are necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution” (Article 1). The Code provides specific guidance to end unethical marketing of breastmilk substitutes and related feeding products directly to consumers, and to reduce influence of breastmilk substitute companies in health care.

Since 1981, the WHA has adopted additional relevant resolutions, which clarify and extend certain provisions and have the same legal status as the Code. For example, the 2016 WHA Resolution calls on countries to implement the WHO ‘Guidance on ending the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children’, which extends coverage of the term breastmilk substitute to include any milks specifically marketed for feeding infants and young children up to the age of 3. Other topics covered in the 2016 Resolution include conflicts of interest in health care and cross promotion of products.


For a newly released free online training on the Code, please visit UNICEF’s Agora training platform and create a free guest account. For 2018 status update on global implementation of the Code click here. Excellent reporting on recent examples of aggressive and false advertising can be found in the following documents: Save the Children’s “Don’t Push It Report”, Changing Markets “Access to Nutrition Campaign Reports”.