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Formula makers try to influence first feeding  


2013-09-17 09:36 Ecns.cn Web Editor: Si Huan
Photo: screenshot from CCTV

Photo: screenshot from CCTV

(ECNS) -- To gain market share, many milk powder producers are spending a lot of money paying doctors and nurses to feed their brand of formula to newborns, so that the infants would become dependent on it, according to CNTV.

A new mom in Tianjin said the hospital provided the formula and they didn't know which brand it was. A nurse said newborns at the hospital were provided with the same formula, and parents weren't allowed to bring in their own.

In fact, the brand of formula the infants get is determined by the hospital and its "sponsors."

A woman who used to be a sales executive at Dumex said the milk powder producer cooperated with hospitals, paying them hundreds of thousands of yuan to provide Dumex formula to newborns.

Milk powder producers sponsored the hospital's "academic activities" and provided lecture fees or transportation allowance to those who attended, according to a doctor surnamed Dai.

A nurse said they could also get commissions if they recommend certain brands of formula. "Most parents would ask nurses to recommend a formula after the birth of their babies. And we can get 50 yuan ($8 dollars) as commission after we successfully recommend a can of formula," she said.

In 2008, China set up rules saying that staffers at medical institutions will be convicted of bribery if they use their credentials to take bribes or commissions.

China's Ministry of Health said formula brands should not be allowed to launch sales ads during babies' first six months, and suggesting replacing breast milk with formula is allowed only under special circumstances of the mother.

"It is different in reality," said one former formula sales executive. "Producers ask hospitals to feed babies with their formula as soon as they are born, ignoring the parents' condition and their will."

"Babies will reject breast milk if they are accustomed to the taste of formula," he added.

Such actions can affect babies' immune system. "The first seven days of breastfeeding can help the baby build a natural antibiotic barrier," said Yu Shasha, who is involved in infant care studies.

Gao Jingsong, director of obstetrics and gynecology at Union Hospital, also said infants can absorb their mothers' immune globulin through breast milk, which can protect against a number of infections and bacteria.

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