The WHO recommends that to achieve optimal growth, development and health, babies everywhere should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months, at which point safe, appropriate complementary foods should be introduced to meet their evolving nutritional requirements. It notes that complementary foods should not be used as breast-milk substitutes (BMS), and infants and young children should continue to be breastfed until they are two or older.
Global recommendations for infant and young child feeding are set out in WHO and UNICEF’s joint 2003 Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. In addition, due to the sub-optimal rates of breastfeeding worldwide, and continuing poor infant mortality and health, the WHO has set several global targets for 2025 which are highly relevant to India: to reduce wasting to less than 5%, reduce stunting by 40%, increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months to at least 50% and curb levels of overweight children.
To protect and encourage breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding, the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (The Code) was adopted in 1981. It sets out ‘a recommended basis for action’ for member states to regulate and monitor the marketing of breastmilk substitutes. Several World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions were subsequently passed that augment The Code, clarifying and/or extending its scope and application. The Code’s articles relate to different entities including governments, BMS manufacturers, healthcare systems, workers and others.
To give legal effect to The Code, countries need to enact laws and regulations. India first enacted the Infant Milk Substitutes Act in 1992 and strengthened it through an Amendment Act in 2003.
The Access to Nutrition Index rates food and beverage manufacturers´ nutrition-related policies, practices and disclosures worldwide on a recurring basis.
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