The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) says the widespread use of infant formula products will increase child morbidity and mortality in the country.
Mr Nantim Dadi, the Co-ordinator NAFDAC, Kaduna State Office, raised the alarm in Kaduna, North-West Nigeria, on Thursday at a two-day training for officials of the agency on marketing of infant and children food, and other designated products.
The training was organized by NAFDAC in collaboration with Save the Children International (SCI).
Dadi described the use of infant formula as “inappropriate” infant and young child feeding practice, which he said had continued to rise in spite of effort to discourage the practice among mothers.
He said that NAFDAC would partner with organizations willing to support the effort to eliminate the practices that undermine optimal and appropriate feeding of children.
He noted the need for massive sensitization campaign to educate mothers on the dangers inherent in the use of infant formula known as Breast Milk Substitute (BMS).
According to him, breastmilk remains the appropriate feeding practice for infant and young child because of its rich nutrients and minerals compared to any infant formula.
“But there is still high level of information gap on the existence of the International Code and National Regulations on Breastmilk Substitute among health workers.
“This ignorance has paved the way for infant formula companies within and outside the country to continue to violate the regulations while promoting their product.
“The BMS code and regulations among other things mandated the infant formula companies to acknowledge breastmilk supremacy in terms of nutrients and minerals needed by the child,” Dadi said.
He said the 2019 Marketing of Infant and Young Children Food and other Designated Products Regulation had been revised in the effort to address the challenge.
The official said that the training would equip NAFDAC officers with the needed skills on how to use the new monitoring tools to enforce compliance of the revised regulation:
“It has become necessary to build the capacity of our enforcement team following some amendments in the regulations and the monitoring tools.
“This will ensure integration of Breastmilk Substitutes monitoring and enforcement of the new regulations by all NAFDAC staff.”
Mr Isah Ibrahim, Save the Children Nutrition Advocacy Advisor, described breastfeeding as the most cost-effective feeding that would improve the health and survival of children.
Ibrahim, however, noted that policies and interventions to support breastfeeding are undermined by the national and multi-national formula milk manufacturers who compete for a market share of infant feeding formula.
“The Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (BMS Code) including subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions and our national regulations are aimed at eliminating harmful marketing of breastmilk substitutes to the public and health professionals.
“But the monitoring, documentation, enforcement and reporting of code compliances or otherwise are still low,” Ibrahim said.
The nutrition advocacy advisor called for the timely review of the current monitoring tools to meet the global standard and new emerging issues.
This, according to him, should include exposure of inappropriate marketing of breastmilk substitutes through various social media platforms.
He urged NAFDAC to establish a platform for government agencies, NGOs, Civil Society Organizations and other key stakeholders to play their roles in promoting compliance of the code:
“They can meet on regular basis to share ideas and challenges toward achieving the desired objective of Breastmilk substitute regulations in Nigeria.”