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AI Tool Targets Restriction of Infant Formula Marketing

Consumers are encouraged to participate in the new WHO tool by capturing screenshots or photos of any online or offline marketing that may undermine breastfeeding efforts and anonymously uploading them.

The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes that marketing breastmilk substitutes (BMS) poses a threat to the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding. Dr. Kremlin Wickramasinghe, WHO/Europe Regional Adviser on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, explains the need for cracking down on infant formula marketing, particularly digital marketing, due to the region’s low exclusive breastfeeding rates and the evidence linking lack of breastfeeding to childhood obesity.

The pervasiveness of marketing strategies used by the industry violates the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and endangers children’s survival, growth, and development. Dr. Wickramasinghe also highlights the challenges in controlling the infant formula market, including the absence of necessary legal frameworks and complexities associated with digital marketing strategies used by retailers. The ASA ruling on Boot’s adverts for infant formula on Google serves as an example of the industry’s aggressive and influential digital marketing tactics. To address these issues, WHO Europe has developed an AI tool to help governments monitor and protect children’s health.

The organization specifically requests alerts about marketing related to various milks, feeding bottles, and commercially produced foods suitable for infants and young children. Screenshots can be taken from various platforms, including social media, meal delivery apps, and websites, as well as offline marketing materials. WHO also highlights the need to be vigilant about the marketing of other unhealthy products to children, such as tobacco, alcohol, and foods high in salt, trans fats, and sugars.

The promotion of these products increases the risk of noncommunicable diseases and childhood overweight and obesity. The WHO encourages individuals to join their campaign to combat the marketing of harmful products and contribute to a healthier future.

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