WHO Code

The WHO/UNICEF International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 after marketing of formula had led to countless deaths of infants, particularly in the developing world. The code stipulates that there should be absolutely no promotion of breastmilk substitutes, bottles and teats to the general public; that neither health facilities nor health professionals should have a role in promoting breastmilk substitutes; and that free samples should not be provided to pregnant women, new mothers or families. The Code notes that all governments should adopt the Code into national legislation. Since 1981, 84 countries have enacted legislation implementing all or many of the provisions of the Code and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly resolutions.

The United States has no legislation adopting or enforcing the Code, although the state of Massachusetts attempted to enact regulations banning commercial formula gift bags from hospitals in 2005, which was quashed by then-Governor Mitt Romney. Ban the Bags was launched as a result of that effort.

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