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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Sad State of Filipino Families [Formula Milk Marketing]

Photo by Atty. Ipat Luna
I do not consider formula milk as evil or poison.  While I encourage breastfeeding, when moms choose to formula feed, I shut my mouth.  However, what I am up in arms against would be the evils of formula milk marketing.  

Whatever formula milk companies say (we promote breastfeeding, breastfeeding is best, etc. etc.) keep in mind that breastfeeding is their number 1 competitor.  Breastfeeding or breastmilk is free while their product has a huge ecological footprint and also makes a big hole in the consumers' pockets.  What is more sickening is that they target their marketing activities to the poorest of the poor -- to those who cannot actually afford their products.

I'm lucky to be connected to breastfeeding angels who are working with grassroots, communities directly affected by the marketing activities of these milk companies.  Nanay Ines Fernandez of Arugaan regularly shares what she sees in the various communities she serves. 

Nanay Ines shared about the marketing activities of the milk companies such as funding Christmas parties for the city and barangay health workers, treating them to movie tickets and so on and so forth.   There are companies with very aggressive medical representatives who give P1,000 incentive for each worker who are able to gather 10 mothers who can collect 10 box tops from a milk carton.  The mothers are each given a milk tin in exchange for the 10 box tops while the health worker is given the monetary incentive. That's 100 box tops for every P1,000 or just P10 incentive for every box top - piece of cake for the milk company who simply charges it to their marketing or advertising budget.   

It is very frustrating that the target market are the urban poor communities.  Milk companies hook mothers on the expensive formula through subtle sampling and giveaways.  Brands for the younger babies are more expensive than those for older kids.  Poor urban mother usually starts off with the expensive brand which costs about P90 per day.  After 2 weeks, mother realizes that she cannot afford expensive brand and switches to the cheaper brand targeted to older kids.  Eventually, moms end up using tinned milk, creamer or worse sugar water.  

Arugaan saw this first hand when they were conducting their training for peer counselors in various cities.  It is a sad situation for Filipino mothers who cannot afford the milk products.  Those mothers are NOT the readers of this blog but those are the mothers who are affected by the evils of formula milk marketing.

To those moms who choose to formula feed and say that breastfeeding is a choice, you are lucky because you have that choice.  However, for a lot of Filipino moms, breastfeeding is life and death for their babies.

Why am I writing this? Because I want you to understand that there is a reason why I am a strong advocate for the strict implementation of our Milk Code.  Yes, you might be happy with the sales on bottles, milk products but let's not live within the comfort of our world and think of how a strict implementation of the Milk Code can affect those who need it most.

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