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PR Companies and the Milk Formula Manufacturers (Part 2)

This entry is a continuation of PR and New Media Publishing.

A few months ago, I got invited to watch the presentation of a scientific study that correlated DHA and ARA (components found in Breast Milk which Milk companies now add to their formula) to the increase of the IQ of a child to 7 points. I was quite puzzled by the presentation of Dennis Hoffman’s Recent Evidence that Dietary Supply of DHA and ARA in Early Infancy Leads to Possible Trends in IQ of 4-Year Olds. Though no milk company was mentioned or direct promotion of the infant formula, I noticed that a popular celebrity was around to host the event. An idiot can easily put two and two together and correlate it to that milk company. I felt sick to the stomach because I thought I was attending a parenting seminar.

No problem there because like I told you, if I don’t believe in the product or event, I am not compelled to blog about it. So I left it at that.

Three months later, I got a call from the PR company. I could have said NO from the start of the conversation. But I listened out of sheer curiosity. She admitted that she was being candid and was exploring the possibility for mom-bloggers to be an advocate.

Hm, an advocate? How?

Intelligence, she said.

Remember the presentation of the DHA and ARA that it can increase IQ to 7 plus points?

Yes, I remember.

She continued, All you have to do is write this: ask their doctor about the Hoffman study and how you can give your child +7IQ points.

My eyebrows shot up, So doctors are part of this campaign? I was mortified.

She avoided my question. Still, I wanted to study the materials of the Hoffman study that the Milk Company wanted me to read. Armed with a BS Food Technology degree, I am armed with the skills to interpret statistics and other pertinent data. The Eileen E. Birch, Dennis Hoffman et. al. study on Visual acuity and cognitive outcomes at 4 years of age in a double-blind, randomized trial of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid-supplemented infant formula is very misleading. I will write more about the Hoffman study which is based on 79 infants who were fed DHA and ARA supplementation of infant formula within the first 5 days of life. The number of respondents fail in comparison to Michael S. Kramer et. al. research (Breastfeeding and child cognitive development: new evidence from a large randomized trial) which enrolled 17,046 healthy breastfeeding infants.

Now i have a problem with this. Obviously.

I know that we should always consult the doctor for any questions regarding our health. But what if these milk companies are inadvertently promoting the infant formula through the health professionals? I believe they are promoting the Hoffman study through these doctors. Blogging about intelligence with the possibility of the doctor prescribing milk formula maybe indirectly violating the law.

There is a law, the Philippine Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (E.O. 51) that was signed in 1986.

In May 2006, Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Dr. Francisco Duque passed the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations (RIRR) for EO 51 (Download here.) , which includes a ban on the advertising and promotion of milk substitutes for children up to two, with an absolute ban on false health and nutritional claims. ““The new rules would restrict entry of infant formula and sample products into hospitals,” DOH Undersecretary Alex Padilla says in an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald on February 3, 2007. ““It will not prohibit all ads, only ads that make false claims, like ‘drinking this formula will produce geniuses who are loveable and affectionate.'”

The benefits of DHA and ARA supplementation is not yet approved by our Food and Drugs Administration.

I suspect that milk companies are going to claim that they are merely marketing milk for young children, not infants, therefore its milk product is not covered by the Milk code. Unfortunately, the Hoffman study that they are citing studied infants therefore the milk company is actually breaking the law with their claim of ‘increased IQ’ when the child drinks their supplemented milk.

Such a campaign is a violation of the Philippine Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (E.O. 51). Look at how aggressive these milk companies are. Watch this eye-opening documentary that reveals how the marketing of powdered milk has caused fewer mothers to breastfeed in the Philippines. The milk companies’ formula for profits is a formula for disaster.

Continue Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Ever since the Milk Code was made into a law by virtue of President Cory’s Executive Order 51, milk companies have become creative by marketing cow’s milk as follow-on milk food, prenatal milk, milk for the elderly, etc. Still the same banana–all these undermine breastfeeding directly or indirectly by claiming these make our children and adults smarter and healthier.

I also have a problem with the whole intelligence concept.

You mean formula milk can produce intelligent children? Researchers have been studying the components of breast milk, and milk companies are attempting to copy this,” Nona Andaya-Castillo , a breastfeeding advocate explains. ““But the taurine in a mother’s breast milk is intended for human babies. Where exactly does formula milk get its taurine?” Contrary to what the ads say, milk formula, which is derived from cow’s milk, just can’t cut it. ““You don’t see any gifted cows. You don’t see any cows playing chess or the piano.”

Just watching the milk ads on TV, I can see that milk companies are more into misinformation than the truth. You think the prime concern of milk formula companies is our childs’ health? It may be one of their concerns, but I bet the bottom line is profitability. It is a multi-billion peso industry where there is a huge budget for marketing.

Look at who they are targeting now.

These milk companies are now contacting mom bloggers (and maybe even dad bloggers) to join this advocacy. It’s the choice of these parent bloggers to join or not. But my stand is that I refuse to promote any advocacy from a milk manufacturer. I will not write about factors affecting a child’s intelligence whose outcome may lead to the use of milk formula. NO to ads or blog entries that may be peppered with subliminal messages, half-lies and half-truths.

I will blog another entry on studies such as Michael S. Kramer et. al. research (Breastfeeding and child cognitive development: new evidence from a large randomized trial) that support breastfeeding rather than infant formula feeding as contributing to intelligence later in life versus the Dr. Hoffman clinical trial.

If you were approached by a similar request, would you agree to write?

Continue reading on Breastfeeding Advocacy: Dennis Hoffman Study Promoted by Philippine Doctors on +7IQ points is Misleading & Inaccurate

For questions on Breastfeeding, contact
The Breastfeeding Clinic:
Your Partner from Pregnancy to Parenting
(Managed by two International Board Certified Lactation Consultants)
Nona D. Andaya-Castillo, IBCLC

Elvira L. Henares-Esguerra, MD, FPDS, RPh, IBCLC
Telefax: 632-889-1105
Mobile: 63-919-839-5555

Breastfeeding Websites in the Philippines

27 thoughts on “PR Companies and the Milk Formula Manufacturers (Part 2)”

  1. @jomar- wow, congrats! that’s exciting. Actually, it’s your choice on what to write in your blog though. It’s your blog after all.

    In my blog, I don’t want to write about milk formulas. I will write another entry for my reasons.

      1. I have stated it in this post and in part 1 and in two other posts re Milk Formulas. This was in 2007 when there were not a lot of mom blogger advocates. Good thing these days, there are many of us

  2. Even before I became a mom I found those “our formula will turn your kids into super babies” ads hard to believe. Lalo na after I started reading up on breastfeeding. Nagtataka ako why we Pinoys tend to believe those ads blindly and rush out to buy the latest “miracle milk”. Are we that easily dazzled by technology and scientific acronyms, not to mention the cute chubby kids used in those commercials? It’s like having a tree in your backyard with the freshest, most nutritious apples in the world but you still ignorantly buy inferior, week-old apples from the market because the pretty tindera says the market apples have additives that will make you grow taller.

    And don’t get me started on formula and vitamin ads that say “your child can eat all the junk food he wants, basta he drinks our products, he’ll be strong and healthy”

    So no, I will never blog to promote any products that make these outrageous, misleading claims. Kudos for blogging about this topic.

  3. I am encouraged by your stand on this, Tita Noemi. In a way, I guess I’m lucky because I have yet to be approached by anyone to promote a particular product in a manner like this. When you’re of a certain stature on the Philippine blogosphere, you have to be significantly more careful, and I applaud how much thought you’ve put into your decision. It is certainly great for those of us looking for further information on this matter, and food for thought for those of us who stand to benefit from this information. (My daughter is one.)

    God superbless po!

    gannss last blog post..Oh no! Delirious? disbands!

  4. @Christianne- I think it is not a problem with those who have access to the internet and other reliable sources of information. But what about the women in the rural areas? They may feel inadequate because they think the milk formula is good for their babies.

    @ganns- I know of other mothers who were approached. I am not sure if they will agree or not. I know others who refused though. But whatever their decision, I am sure they have their own reasons. I have mine.

    But really, these milk companies are just launching another misinformation or misleading campaign. I don’t want to be part of that.

  5. I agree with your stand, Ms. Noemi. Clearly, the PR company only wants to please their client (formula milk manufacturers) by encouraging parent bloggers to blog about the product in the pretense of an advocacy. talk about desperate efforts. obviously, the claims are misleading and the motives are clear–to increase sales and get a large share of the formula milk market. it’s about time the public be more aware of and vigilant against misleading campaigns.

    I don’t think i would write for such kind of companies, either. compensation alone isn’t worth it. it’s principle and ethics that we’re talking about here.

  6. I admire you for your stand, Noems. Though I mixed-fed my children after 3 months (while I’m out to work), I’ve always been an advocate of breastfeeding. The more I learn about the benefits of breastfeeding, the more I regret having let my kids taste formula. Thankfully, my eldest child’s neonatologist insisted that I breastfeed him from day one to increase his immunity. He was premature and stayed in the ICU for almost a month. He had cardiac arrest and slipped into coma. But all the time, he was fed with my milk through IV feeding. He was breastfed until 8 months. While the doctor attribute our son’s survival to the Divine, she said breast milk played a key role in it. I can’t imagine what would have happened to him if we fed him with formula.

    Andreas last blog post..Learning from the Ivatans of Batanes

  7. @edelwiza- might also be violating the law indirect;u

    @andrea- Breastmilk does improve their immune system. Milk companies do not realize about babies who are dying, 16,000 deaths every year, more than any natural disaster. This is a public emergency, but nobody seems to be noticing because babies cannot speak for themselves.

  8. well noemi, i dont have the scientific knowhow — but i would say this, breastmilk is definitely different from formulas! what are those milk companies doing trying to market those formulas as breastmilk?i breastfed MC for 18 months, i stopped only when I was already 3 months pregnant with IC. And I breastfed IC until she’s 3 years old — I saw the benefits of breastfeeding, aside from the fact that we did saved a lot of money as we almost never needed those formulas! i hope those milk companies would remember that the lives of the babies are more important than their profits! let’s be true!

    raqgolds last blog post..Second Best is Also Good

  9. isn’t formula an alternative for babies who can’t take breast milk? (because breastmilk is still best for babies!!) my ananya could not take breastmilk – i think because of a reaction so she had to do formula.

  10. @raqgold- Way to go Raq. My sister gave extended breastfeeding to her 5 year old son

    @jayvee- from what I know breastmilk is always good for babies. I don’t really know what occured. Maybe the mother ate something that gave an allergic reaction to her baby. I am sure she consulted about this.

  11. @noemi – im not an expert in the field but yeah she did. that’s why i was surprised about it; didn’t know about the situation. which was why we had to really spend not just for diapers but for milk. ouch!

  12. Not sure if we have the same PR company in mind, Noems, but I was similarly approached. They did not go far, however, because I immediately said that as a practicing yogini, I was a health advocate and believed in breastfeeding. The discussion ended there.

    And, by the way, Elvie Esguerra is a co-parent and friend in school and we have had great talks about breastfeeding. I really admire the guts of this lady!

    Janes last blog post..Bloggers Do Yoga

  13. Christianne,

    One reason, I think, is the Filipina’s sense of worth. I think many believe their milk is not as good as these “scientifically” produced products, some of which are imported sounding. This can explain the openness of Filipina mothers to milk substitute. Pag libre at galing sa kanila, tingin nila inferior. Pag mahal at de lata superior.

  14. @jayvee- It’s expensive. Can you imagine the poor who has to buy milk. Sometimes water is not even potable and when milk is not enough, they dilute the powder. I pity the babies who cannot speak up and say “I’m not getting enough”

    @Jane- Elvira is a good friend of my sister-doctor who is a breastfeeding advocate herself. They aredoing such a great job!

    @BrianB- If you watched the documentary, it’s all these ads telling them that the milk formula is just as good as breast milk. It’s just disgusting.

  15. Thank you for taking this stand Ms Noemi. I am an advocate of breastfeeding though we have a stand-by formula milk for my son incase my stored milk is not enough for him when I’m at work. I remember one officemate of mine buying a certain kind of formula milk (even if its way to expensive) because the ad suggested that it will make a child matalino. I really think that the government should take extra steps to promote breastfeeding.

    gails last blog post..the joy of walkin

  16. Unfortunately, not everybody could breastfeed. Some Mothers have a hard time lactating. I know a few who bled in their first try. There also babies who has a hard time getting into the process and some have some kind of allergies. In these cases, Doctors recommend Formula.

    I prefer breastfeeding. I did for both my children. BUT, whenever we went out I gave them formula as an option because I had a terrible time pumping for milk at home. As much as I support breastfeeding I was uncomfortable doing it in public. Who knew I’m still capable of modesty…LOL. Although sometimes I breastfeed in the car but if we’re out and they were hungry I was glad I had formula readily available for them.

    Having said all that, I think promoting Formula because it will increase intelligence is false advertisement. I think they’re using a bad tactic to promote formula. Breastfeeding is the best but formula has it’s benefits too. Raising IQ is not one of them.

  17. @Gail- Choosing formula over breast milk because it will make your kid intelligent is sad. Just shows how the milk company wants our mothers to shift to formula

    @lady cess- I would think most mom bloggers won’t.

    @dexie – if I were the mom encountering breast feeding problems in the Philippins, I would consult lactation consultants and not the OB-gyne because these doctors are being promoted by Milk Companies. Some doctors could be biased towards Milk Formula

  18. Pingback: Breastfeeding Advocacy: Dennis Hoffman Study Promoted by Philippine Doctors on +7IQ points is Misleading & Inaccurate » A Filipina Mom Blogger »

  19. Congratulations on your stand Noemi!

    It’s really bothersome how these milk companies blatantly show how much clout they have on some medical professionals. I pity those doctors.

    For Dr. Hoffman, if you check the website of the Retina Foundation, it shows there that his study on ARA and DHA is funded by Mead Johnson. There is just no credibility.

  20. i’m convinced that milk companies will continue to win the baby milk wars precisely because the medical doctors are helping to promote milk products.

    as a childbirth educator, i am in contact with many moms and most of them blindly follow what their pediatricians and obgynes tell them. for example, nearly all of them are convinced that their children need milk formula even into toddlerhood or up to school-age! why? because their doctors told them so.

    doctors have to be part of the solution because they are a big part of the problem.

  21. I am a pediatrician and just this week I was visited by a medical representation of a milk company. She identified the blind infomercial on the Hoffman’s study on +7 pt IQ as coming from their company and added that if mothers were to inquire about it that I would acknowledge its the SOURCE! Such presumptiousness! I proceeded to state that I am a breastfeeding advocate. But this remark was taken nonchalantly and she continued to name the infant formulas for “those who cannot breastfeed.”

    I believe that we in the healthfield should be willing to take a more aggressive stand against the promotion of breastmilk substitutes. I hope that the medical institutions and/or professional organizations we represent would be in the forefront of BREASTFEEDING ADVOCACY!

    Thank you very much for sharing the blatant scheme of milk companies directed to mom bloggers. Kudos!

  22. Advertisers have created this culture of fear and guilt among mommies. I do not have the facts and I would rather not go there–but milk products are not as heavily advertised in the US as here in the Philippines. There is a more permissive atmosphere here, it seems, for milk manufacturers to conjure this imaginary world where children are smarter and healthier merely because of the follow-on milk their Mommy gives them. Milk companies are actually robbing mommies of their self-respect and self-worth with this kind of advertising. Mommies have more to do with their children’s intelligence than the milk she chooses for them. After all, 70% of a child’s intelligence they say, comes from the Mom. And it is Mommy who chooses what she feeds her family as well as the one who–very likely–is every child’s very first teacher.

    may tobias-papas last blog post..What your pedia might not be telling you: You don’t need follow-on milk.

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