Formula firms stop ads well before ban goes into effect in Vietnam

Thanh Nien News

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A woman checks an infant formula can at a shop in Hanoi. Photo: Ngoc Thang A woman checks an infant formula can at a shop in Hanoi. Photo: Ngoc Thang


Several formula manufacturers have stopped advertising products designed for children under two even though the practice won't be officially banned until March.
The manager of a foreign-funded formula company who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, said they pulled their infant product ads the day the Vietnamese government approved the ban on November 6 as part of a larger effort to promote breastfeeding.
The national Food Safety Department, which licenses food product advertisements, stopped issuing permits to ensure that no ads were disseminated after March 1 of next year, he told news website Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon (Saigon Times).
Current regulations ban companies from advertising formula for children under one.
The new ban not only raises that age limit, but also demands that formula manufacturers remove their logos from banner ads hung at supermarkets and medical facilities.
Representatives from many other businesses in the industry said they were willing to play by the new rules.
Some said that without the chance to promote and introduce their products to users, their revenues will drop, so they expect the authorities enforce them equally.
Insiders say some businesses continue to circumvent the current ban to promote formula for children under one by approaching mothers at hospitals or selling formula at special prices.
Only 19 percent of Vietnamese babies exclusively drink breast milk during their first six months of life, which the World Health Organization says is the third-lowest rate in the region.
Doctors said many young mothers have been so thoroughly manipulated by formula companies that they doubt their ability to nourish their babies.
The cost of that manipulation, which includes everything from commercials to commissions paid to doctors and nurses for recommending their products, gets rolled into retail prices, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported last year.
Middle-income parents say they spend half their monthly salaries on these formulas.

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