Information About Risks Of Formula-Feeding Failed To Disclose by Government

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Breast-Feeding

The decision to halt an HHSpublic service campaign that promoted breast-feeding "seems to be amatter of politics and economics," Wendy Orent, author of the book"Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World's MostDangerous Disease," writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece (Orent, Los Angeles Times, 9/30).

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Thecampaign, which aired advertisements promoting breast-feeding from 2003to 2005, was toned down after formula industry representatives hiredlobbyists to influence the department. One of the ads created for thecampaign featured a nipple-tipped insulin bottle and said, "Babies whoaren't breast-fed are 40% more likely to suffer Type 1 diabetes." Someof the proposed ads also featured photos of asthma inhalers topped withrubber nipples. Instead, the campaign ran ads that showed images ofdandelions and cherry-topped ice cream scoops to highlight howbreast-feeding could help prevent respiratory conditions and obesity.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reformis investigating whether former Surgeon General Richard Carmona wasbarred from participating in the breast-feeding advocacy project and ifpeople working on the campaign were overruled by superiors (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 8/31).

Accordingto Orent, formula industry lobbyists "pressured" the department to"weaken" the campaign, "even though the science supported" thecampaign's message. Orent adds that the "health of millions of infants"now is "at risk because mothers don't have the scientific knowledge theads would have conveyed to make an informed choice between breast- orformula-feeding."

"Formula cannot "compete, nutritionally orimmunologically, with something produced by eons of natural selectionand tailored to the precise needs of human infants and their mothers,"Orent writes. She adds that formula companies "deftly reframed thedebate" on breast- or formula-feeding to be about "choice." Women"should feel angry" that they were not told, "in some clear, graphicand unmistakable way, what the health risks of formula-feeding are,"Orent writes, concluding that the "terrible thing" is that thegovernment "for political and economic reasons chose -- and stillchooses -- to keep that knowledge to itself" (Los Angeles Times, 9/30).
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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Women's Health Policy Report, search thearchives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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