Monday, September 23, 2013

Magic molecules, inventions, and the WHO Code

                              "War is peace,  Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength."
                                                                                         --George Orwell

Infant formula is breast-milk.  George Orwell did not say that but we are 1984.  We are living in a time of illusion, a time of "spin."  Social marketing has brought us back into the future of Orwell's 1984.  Everything has a price and anything can be sold in the marketplace of earthly desire.  Human cells, stem cells, proteins, DNA, RNA;  it's all for sale.  Truth, where be thee?  Not on this planet of avarice and greed.  Lie, steal, and cheat: it doesn't matter, just repeat and repeat.  Welcome to planet earth, where everything has a price and illusions are guaranteed.

So what new illusions have arrived from the inventors of human milk components?  Inventors who play with their magic molecules, magic bullets, and mumbo-jumbo science.  A whisper of words about preserving exclusive breastfeeding.  A joke?  Must be a joke cause its a Nestle patent.  A patent designed for the breast-fed infant or pet.  Are ya laughing yet?  So some Nestle inventors create a patent that will benefit the exclusively breast-fed infant or pet.   The captive mammal in artificial environments finds it difficult to exclusively breastfeed.  But there is a company that will save all mammal babies by promoting a product, a nutritional supplement for those breast-fed they human or animal.  Nope, I am not making this up.  It's there at the US Patent & Trademark Office, a patent application entitled, "NUTRITIONAL COMPOSITION FOR BREAST-FED INFANTS OR PETS WITH PROBIOTICS AND SELECTED NUTRIENTS."  application # 20120121562 and owned by Nestec (Nestle)

"...even in the cases where the mother exclusively breastfeeds an infant, the mother's milk may still be lacking in certain important nutrients..."

One could give the mother a supplement.  No, no that won't work--"difficult to restore by supplementation of the mother diet during lactation."

"It has now been found that by supplementing the breast milk itself, without having to resort to traditional infant formulas. a number of advantages can be derived for the infant and the mother."

I can't help but wonder about the next step regarding supplementing the exclusively breastfed infant or pet with a nutrient (DHA, alpha-linolenic acid, carotenoids, calcium iron, zinc, copper...) plus probiotics.  Let me see.   Make everyone believe that there is a deficiency (so easy to do regarding breastmilk), get the medical community to back the need for supplementation of all breastfed infants(that worked with vitamin D supplementation), and blanket the pediatric journals with articles about the wonders of probiotics and deficiencies in human milk.  Of course we won't let parents know that breastmilk already contains probiotics.  And that studies on deficiencies in breastmilk have always been funded by the infant formula industry.  Nor will we tell parents how these ingredients are created, mostly through genetic engineering.  Nor do we have long-term studies on this experiment on our most vulnerable population-babies.

I can visualize the marketing of these products.  The doubts about breastfeeding already exist but these kind of products will increase the level of doubt.  No mother will feel like she has an adequate diet and this kind of "science" states that mother's cannot make up for their inadequate diet.  Only a Nestle product given to the "exclusively" breastfed infant can make up for the improper diets of mothers.  Meanwhile, at another part of the US Patent Office, some inventors own a patent entitled, "Human milk peptides,"  patent # 8518894.  They are creating novel peptides derived from human milk to combat oxidative stress, build immunity, stop inflammatory responses, combat pathogens.   Oh wait, at least one of the inventors to this patent has been funded by Danone, and Heinz, James Friel.  In an interview of the other inventor, Apollinaire Tsopmo, "...Tsopmo discovered mother's breast milk also contains antioxidants that can be incredibly valuable for premature infants."  and  

"Tsopmo says formula milk on the market tries its best to "mimic" breast milk.  Since there will never be enough breast milk to feed the entire infant population, the food industry will always be striving to find beneficial molecules within it..."(article from a blogger from Carleton University)

So we have on the one hand Nestle who is convinced that mother's milk needs fixing and they can do it!!  But also we know from other Nestle patents that they are also staking claims on components of human milk.  How strange... Then we have other inventors involved with various infant formula companies who are staking claims on the magical properties of human milk.  Do they really believe that there will never be enough breast milk to feed the entire infant population?  Or is it that an industry has created a belief system that there is not enough breast milk in the world and never will be.  And that there will always be women who reject breastfeeding and there will always be breastfeeding failure.  No where does the industry perceive that they are part of the problem.  One way breastfeeding fails is by early and frequent supplementation of infant formula.  Another way is to have women believe in the inadequacy of their milk and the nutritional superiority of man-made artificial baby formulas.  The marketing of infant formula has spread persistent doubts about breastfeeding.  Yet while these doubts are spread through advertising, the industry is busy making claims on human milk components.  Rather odd, don't ya think? 

What would be a way to stop this craziness, this subverting of breastfeeding and creating a world that thinks, "Infant formula is breast-milk."?   There is the WHO Code for marketing breast-milk substitutes, under-utilized or virtually unknown in the US.  The purpose of the Code: "Recognized further that inappropriate feeding practices lead to infant malnutrition, morbidity and mortality in all countries, and that improper practices in the marketing of breast-milk substitutes and related products can contribute to these major public health problems."  The Code recognized the importance of stopping the direct marketing of infant formula to parents/the public.  It is a health issue in which infants suffer the consequences of such marketing through parental misconceptions of infant feeding.

The intent was not to stop the manufacture of infant formula or complementary foods.  The WHO Code states, "Considering that, when mothers do not breast-feed, or only do so partially there is a legitimate market for infant formula...and that they should not be marketed or distributed in ways that may interfere with the protection and promotion of breast-feeding."

Will we continue to let our society sink into a dystopia of half-truths, slogans that compromise the health and well-being of infants and mothers?  Or will we take another look at the possibility of regulating the marketing of breast-milk substitutes so that mothers and babies have better health?
Valerie W. McClain copyright 2013