Assessing the extent of violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes in South African advertising media
Introduction: Exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) contributes towards reducing infant and young child mortality however global EBF rates are sub-optimal. One of the factors that influences a mothers' choice to exclusively breastfeed her child, is the marketing of breast milk substitutes. The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (ICMBS) was developed to promote, protect and support EBF. Although South Africa has adopted the ICMBS, the Code was only legislated in December 2012 to ensure compliance. Aim: To do a baseline assessment of the extent of ICMBS violations in the South African advertising media including magazines, newspapers, television (TV) and radio. Methods: In this cross-sectional study data were collected on multiple occasions. Data were collected by means of recording and/or screening daily broadcasts from four TV channels (SABC 1, 2, 3 and e.tv), nine commercial radio stations, 116 different magazines and 10 different newspapers for ICMBS violations. This study was done within a period of four months between November 2012 and January 2014. Violations pertaining to advertising media include advertising or promoting infant formula, other milk products marketed for children up to 36 months of age (e.g. growing-up milk or follow-on milk), foods for infants younger than six months, any other food or beverages marketed or represented to be suitable for the use as partial or total replacements of breast milk, and feeding bottles and teats to the general public (article 5.1 of the ICMBS). Results: A total number of 30 violations were identified from 117 baby product advertisements that were published in eight of the 169 screened magazines. No violations were found from advertisements on TV, radio or in newspapers. The majority of advertisements that violated article 5.1 of the ICMBS, were advertisements of feeding bottles (60%), followed by advertisements of growing-up milk (20%) and feeding teats (16.7%). Only one violation (3.3%) was an advertisement of infant food for infants younger than six months. Advertisements with violations were advertising baby products from 11 different companies. More than half of the violations (56.7%) were published in two editions from the same magazine, or inserts within that magazine, who's target group was pregnant women. Eight advertisements with violations (26.6%) were published in family magazines, three (10%) were published in baby magazines, and two (6.7%) were published in lifestyle magazines. Conclusion: According to the present baseline study, ICMBS violations were only found in a small percentage (4.7%) of magazines targeted mainly at pregnant women. However, although the present study included the majority of available South African magazines distributed in South Africa, not all the available newspapers, TV channels and radio stations were included in the sample size. The true extent of ICMBS violations in the South African advertising media may therefore be higher. It can also not be concluded that BMS companies use only magazines to advertise products pertaining to the scope of the ICMBS. A follow-up study need to determine the impact of legislating the Code on ICMBS violations in advertising media.
- Health Sciences