Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pandora's Box--part 4-

                               "Every year 10 million children under five, most in poor
                       countries, die from infections of the chest and gut.  Babies
                       under six months who are not breastfed are five times              
                       more likely to die from pneumonia and seven times more
                       from diarrhoea.  In Brazil, artificially fed babies were 17 times
                       more likely to need hospital admission for pneumonia than
                       breastfed babies.  There is a dose related effect."
                                           --Gabrielle Palmer, "The Politics of Breastfeeding"

Why is it that policy-makers, in the US, feel that somehow our infants are immune from these statistics?  They believe that poverty only exists in developing countries. They believe that infant mortality and morbidity has nothing to do with the way in which babies are fed.  They believe that only vaccination can build immunity, that our food choices for babies has no impact on health and well-being of our infants.  

There are many reasons why policy-makers in the US are so blind to the risks of infant formula.  One big reason is that corporate advertising works on the minds and hearts of all of us.  Through advertising we see a world, a world invented by an industry (actually industries--the dairy, packaging, vitamin, oil companies--base of plastics for bottles and nipples).  Our society believes in "choice" when it comes to feeding babies.  Is that belief of "choice" based in reality or the advertising campaigns used by the infant formula industry?  How much of what we believe is based in reality and how much of it is based on the use of advertising.  Most people would deny the impact of advertising on their perceptions of reality. Yet consider the symbol of babyhood to most Americans, the bottle.  Play the word association game, baby??? Most people would respond with bottle not breast.  Have you ever gone to a baby shower and not seen one bottle?  It's on the gift-wrap or cards we give to the mother-to-be.  Does that influence us?

Is "choice" about female liberation?  Or is "choice" really a denial of female biology?  Men seem particularly enamored with giving women "choice."  Yet I suspect that men would not appreciate women telling men that they have a "choice" about the functions of their biology.   When the "choice" doctrine enriches an industry, at what point will we realize that "choice" is the underpinnings of an advertising campaign and not about women's liberation?

I am fascinated with a more recent theme on the internet of formula feeding mothers being offended by almost anything stated by breastfeeding advocates.  And even more interesting is the response of some breastfeeding advocates.  The response is to implore others to not upset formula feeders.  Meaning what?  Let's not talk about the risks of infant formula, instead lets make everyone feel good.  It's almost as if no one understands the advertising or should I say the social marketing budget of the infant formula industry.  (to be clear I do not believe in attacking others for their choices, formula feeding or breastfeeding)  But I do not believe that silence is the answer to misinformation.  Would you keep silent, if a mom said it was okay for a child to put a fork in an electrical socket?  Gee, I don't want her to feel bad?  

How much of what we believe in our world is influenced by the advertising we have seen throughout our lives?  Funny how people remember all the advertising jingles.  I still remember the TV Marlboro ads and guess what cigarettes I smoked?  Yet I am sure, when I was smoking cigarettes that I would have denied being influenced by advertising.  I also remember the Virginia Slims advertising.  Yes, I smoked that brand,too.  I would swear on a bible that ads don't effect me.  Yet to my chagrin, advertising has effected my buying habits.  

When infants die or get sick from a product, why is it so hard to envision some kind of advertising regulation on that product?  It's not like asking a company to shut down and no longer exist.  These companies in their patents admit to adverse effects of their product.  They state the need to recreate a formula more like breastmilk because infant formula creates greater health problems.  So why is our nation, which sells these products to poorer countries, willing to turn a blind-eye to the damaging nature of artificial feeding?

Patent application #20120172319
Title:  "Method for decreasing the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis in infants, toddlers, or children using human milk oligosaccharides."
Assignee:  Abbott

"Breast milk contains components that not only act as pathogen receptor analogues, but also activate immune factors by infant intestinal epithelial cells and/or associated immune cell populations to enhance development and maturation of the infant's gastrointestinal and immune system."

This patent application believes that "suboptimal intestinal flora may result in infection, diarrhea, allergies and food intolerance."  I believe suboptimal intestinal flora is the result of infant formula feeding (reading between the lines).  So Abbott will create a new formula based on human milk's ability to optimize the gut flora using human milk oligosaccharides (real or genetically engineered?).  

So there is acceptance that a product may create infections, allergies, etc.  And there is acceptance of "choice" without knowledge of the potential for infections, allergies, and even death are part of this product.  Regulation of advertising?  No.  Product mentions adverse effects?  No.  Rather odd that consumers are so willing to accept the consequences of such a product.
Copyright 2014 Valerie W. McClain


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