Is mother’s milk about kindness or money?

This week I went to Parliament to attend the All Parties Parliamentary Group on Infant Feeding Inequalities. I was representing my daughter, who has worked hard to raise awareness regarding the need for early detection of tongue tie in newborns. I’ve written about this in a previous post from August 2019 ‘Prevention is Better than cure’ and the link to her petition is:

https://www.change.org/p/nhs-screen-for-tongue-tie-as-part-of-the-routine-newborn-check-bb0c4cf6-2ade-48a2-a736-06d4b0a2af95

It seemed incongruous that I was there because of a uniquely personal experience that especially affected my daughter, her partner and their son, my grandson.  Sitting in the impersonal, dark wood panelled Committee Room 18 with various MPs and senior representatives of a number of public and voluntary health bodies, my rationale for being there seemed so individual and personal and a million miles from the business of Parliament.

I listened to Patti Rundall, from ‘Baby Milk Action’ giving her presentation on US-UK trade talks and the potential impact of food standards on the baby milk industry.  Patti spoke with passion of the ‘commerciogenic malnutrition’ that was affecting huge numbers of infants across the globe and also the large-scale environmental issues.  Inappropriate labelling and misleading marketing of infant formula products have contributed to this situation and Patti spoke of her work with CODEX, another even larger organisation(*see below).

I was reminded of the famous line from Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ spoken by Lady Macbeth to her husband:

“Yet do I fear thy nature; it is too full o’ the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way, is Lady Macbeth’s scathing attack on Macbeth’s apparent lack of ambition and ruthlessness. Her benign view of mother’s milk seems a million miles from the aggressive approach and strategy employed by the baby feeding business. Lady Macbeth would surely have approved of the commercial values base employed by those making money of that kindest of human acts; breastfeeding. 

At the end of the meeting the Chair, Alison Hewlett MP and several attendees expressed appreciation for my attendance and asked me to thank my daughter. Although infant feeding is very big business it is also and primarily an intimate and intensely private matter and important that policy makers and commerce alway rememberthis fact.

(*The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice. The UK is an active member of Codex. Agreed standards are voluntary and implementation by member countries is therefore not automatic. However, Codex standards are recognised as reference texts for trade disputes brought before a World Trade Organization (WTO) Disputes Panel. The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is the lead UK Government Department for Codex. The FSA takes the lead in many of the vertical committees dealing with food hygiene, food additives, methods analysis and sampling, food contaminants and imports import and export certification systems. 

For more information about Codex, refer to Defra’s information on the Codex standards .)

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