HC Deb 10 June 1988 vol 134 cc727-8W
Mrs. Gillian Shephard

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will implement the recommendation in the COMA report entitled "Present-day Practice in Infant Feeding", that free samples of baby milk should not be allowed in hospitals.

Mrs. Currie

Yes. In 1981 the World Health Organisation issued a code on the marketing of breast milk substitutes (the WHO Code) and the report from the chief medical officer's committee on medical aspects of food policy "Present-day practice in Infant Feeding: Third Report" was published in January 1988. Both recommended that samples of baby milks should not be given to mothers.

I have discussed this with the Infant and Dietetic Foods Association of the Food and Drink Federation, previously known as the Food Manufacturers' Federation. At the Government's request the industry has agreed the time is right to discontinue manufacturers' provision to hospitals of free samples and subsidised supplies of baby milks. This change would fully meet, within the United Kingdom, the World Health Assembly's more recent 1986 resolution that Governments should not allow free and subsidised supplies of breast milk substitutes in maternity wards and hospitals. We expect this change to be implemented fully by the end of 1988.

We also agreed that the two instruments for securing within the United Kingdom the aim and principles of the WHO code, health circular HC(83)13 and the FMF code of practice for the marketing of infant formulae in the United Kingdom (the FMF code) should be revised and reissued to take account of this change and in the light of experience since they came into effect in 1983. The main change in the FMF code will be to reflect the cessation of samples and subsidised supplies. We anticipate that the revised health circular and FMF code should come into effect during the autumn.

We intend these changes to coincide with the launch in October of the breastfeeding organisations' new initiative to promote breast feeding, which we welcome. I warmly congratulate the manufacturers on their helpfulness and in particular on their pledge to assist with the new initiative, to which they generously plan to give financial support.