Law banning baby formula marketing takes effect today

  • A woman looks at infant formulas in one of the largest Japanese-style department stores in Hong Kong on August 9, 2012. Hong Kong said on August 9, 2012 it will test babies who have consumed two Japanese-made infant formulas found to have low levels of iodine, after the products were ordered off the city’s shelves. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez / AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE LOPEZ

The Control of Marketing of Infant and Young Child Food Act of 2017, which bans all advertising for infant formula milk as well as other food products for infants and young children, will take effect today (Sept 8).

The first of its kind in Thailand, the new law is intended to protect consumers in the infant and young child group.

It forbids sales promotion activities such as giving discount coupons, free samples, gifts and prizes, which companies use to attract customers. Medical, nursing and public health personnel will also be bound by the act to support, promote and protect breastfeeding. Violators will face stiff fines.

According to Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, the law is based on the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, which has been recognised by Thailand since 1981.

In the initial stage, this international code was applied for use by asking the business sector to cooperate on a voluntary basis.  The Public Health Ministry issued a ministerial regulation in 2008, but it was found to be ineffective as there were still inappropriate advertising and sale promotions.

The ministry subsequently proposed the legislation of the Control of Marketing of Infant and Young Child Act, which will become effective from Sept 8.

The law provides control of advertising for milk substitutes and other food products for infants from new-born to 12 months and for children between 12 months and 3 years of age.  Producers, importers or sellers of infant formula milk are prohibited from:

  • Advertising food products for children in a way that may cause people to believe they are good for infants;
  • Giving discount coupons, free samples, gifts, prizes and samples, either directly or indirectly;
  • Offering gifts, money, or interests to public health personnel;
  • Organsing a meeting, training or a seminar on food for infants and children for public health service agencies or their personnnel; and
  • Donating food for infants or children to public health service agencies or their personnel, except to people who are sick of specific diseases or those with physical abnormalities.

Vachira Pengchan, director-general of the Health Department, said the department has appointed officials to monitor violations of the law.

Those who advertise products in violation of  this law are liable to a jail term of not exceeding one year and/or a fine of up to 100,000 baht, or an additional fine of not more than 10,000 baht per day until the violation has ended.

Dr Daniel Kertesz, the WHO Representative to Thailand, recently said the Control of Marketing of Infant and Young Child Food Act of 2017 shows a strong intention of the Thai government to protect the health and development of Thai children.  The law has made Thailand one of the 135 countries worldwide to have a law to protect breastfeeding.