On the Trail of Code Compliancy


by Marsha Walker, RN, IBCLC

Reprinted with permission from the USLCA February 2012 eNews
List of companies updated 9/1/2014

Keeping up with which companies are meeting their obligations under the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (the Code) can be a daunting task. Who is compliant and who is not is constantly changing, especially as companies merge, enter marketing agreements, or acquire subsidiaries. Companies who are owned by Code violators are considered the same as their parent. The lineage of manufacturers and distributors of products covered by the Code must be kept in mind. So long as any company is found to be a Code violator, sponsorship is not accepted from its parent or subsidiary company even though the parent or subsidiary company may not be a Code violator.

In the case of a subsidiary company, the parent company is in control of the subsidiary’s policies and practices and there is advantage in keeping the subsidiary’s record relatively clean so that health workers can work with the subsidiary while the parent company continues to violate the Code. Strategically, it means one company benefits from endorsements by health workers because it is Code compliant while the other continues to reap the benefits of aggressive promotion. Since the decision makers of both companies are one and the same, the parent company must not be allowed to take advantage of the goodwill that the subsidiary may receive from health workers as a result of any sponsorship they offer. Using the corporate veil to shield one arm of a group of companies from possible wrongful deeds of another is unethical and would exonerate the parent company from its responsibilities under the Code. There is a compelling case to lift the corporate veil to protect infant health and health care providers are encouraged to do so. Companies must not be rewarded for poor corporate behavior.

Creating a list of companies who are Code violators and who are not Code violators is difficult at best, but below is a selected list of a few companies who are and are not Code violators that may be involved with infant feeding. Hopefully, this is helpful to readers. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

Code violators:

(revised 9/1/2014)

  • All infant formula companies
  • Medela
    (markets the Calma feeding bottle and nipple in a Code violating manner)
  • The First Years
    (markets infant feeding bottles in a Code violating manner)
  • Phillips Avent
    (markets infant feeding bottles in a Code violating manner)
  • Lansinoh
    (owned by Pigeon, a Code violator and markets the mOmma bottle in a Code violating manner)
  • Tommee Tippee
    (markets infant feeding bottles in a Code violating manner)
  • Dr. Brown’s
    (markets infant feeding bottles in a Code violating manner)
  • Evenflo
    (markets infant feeding bottles in a Code violating manner)
  • Playtex
    (markets infant feeding bottles in a Code violating manner)
  • Boppy
    (owned by the Artsana Group, maker of Chicco branded infant products which are marketed in a Code violating manner)

Companies meeting their obligations under the Code:


Want to find out more about the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes?

Infant formula, feeding bottles, and artificial nipples are the main products that fall within the scope of the Code. Pacifiers and breast pumps are not under the scope of the Code. Note that the Code only applies to the marketing of these items– it does not affect whether they are sold or used.

What is the WHO-CODE? (Best for Babes)

A Summary of the WHO Code (including WHERE, WHAT, WHEN and HOW) (Snugabell)

Health Implications of Direct Advertising of Infant Formula (World Health Organization)

Summary: International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (ILCA)

Summary of WHA Resolutions Relevant to the Code (INFACT Canada)

International Baby Food Action Network: The International Code (IBFAN)

How to report unethical promotion of formula, bottles and other breastmilk substitutes (PhD in Parenting)

International Code Documentation Center – Report Code violations here.

Looking for WHO Code compliant companies? Some of them are part of Best for Babe’s CARE-WHO Alliance. Their list of companies is here: CARE-WHO Corporate Alliance.