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CHILD Protection & Child Rights » IV. National Mechanisms » Child Related Legislations » Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods

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Malnutrition is responsible for 55% of the infant mortality seen in India. Breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of an infant's life and complementary feeding up to two years age is essential to battle malnutrition. The purpose of the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods Act 1992 and its 2003 amendment is to promote breast feeding of new born children and infants. It also looks to ensure that infant foods are regulated and used appropriately.

From the second section of the act it is important to remember two essential definitions. Infant Food refers to the food that is marketed, or represented as complementary to mother's milk to provide the nutritional needs of the infant after 6 months up to 2 years. Infant milk substitute is any food being marketed or represented as partial or full replacement for mother's milk for the infant up to 2 years of age.

This act states that no person should advertise, promote or mislead people to believe that infant food, feeding bottles and infant milk substitutes are an acceptable replacement of mother's milk. No person can distribute or supply infant food, feeding bottles and infant milk substitutes, or contact any expecting mother or mother of an infant, or offer inducement in an attempt to sell or promote infant food, feeding bottles and infant milk substitutes. Section five states, no person shall donate or distribute infant food, feeding bottles and infant milk substitutes or any material regarding the same, except the health system.

The law requires that any manufacturer, supplier or distributer of infant food and infant milk substitutes needs to put warning labels on the project insuring that the customer understands that mother's milk is the best food for an infant, and that these products should only be used under the advice of a healthcare worker. The product should also give clear instructions for use, nutritional information, ingredients and manufacture and expiry information, etc. Infant food and infant milk substitute products are not permitted to have photos of babies or mothers, images or designs that increase saleability, and use words like maternalised or humanised, etc.

Informational or educational material that is used to promote milk substitutes or infant food, should have labels professing the superiority of breast feeding, the harmful effects of bottle feeding, the difficulty in switching back from bottle feeding, the social and financial implications of using milk substitutes or infant food, the health risks to using milk substitutes or infant food and proper publication information. No person can promote the use of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles or infant food through any facility in the health case system such as posters, placards,

There are a few institutions that are exempted from the distribution of these products such as an orphanage, Health care workers, organisations engaged in care for mothers who can not breast feed, etc. There is a provision in the act to ward of bribing of health care workers to promote the use of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles or infant food by banning any payment in cash or kind to any health worker or organisation. Employees of producers, suppliers or distributers are not allowed to receive any bonuses on the bases of sales and are not allowed to contact expecting mothers or mothers of infants.

All products being sold or distributed have to meet the standards of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, or the Bureau of Indian Standards or in the absence of a standard then that specified by the central government. Offers appointed under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 can search any premise if they suspect that the provisions of this act are being violated. They may also seize any substance they suspect of being in contradiction to this law.

Failure to follow the provisions of this act can lead the principal civil court of the local area to fine the person responsible up to the cost of the infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles or infant food in his possession. The owner is given a formal letter explaining why the products have been seized and hence has time to object the confiscation. The decision of the civil courts may be appealed to the appellate court. Blatant violation of the prohibiting provisions of this act can result in a maximum jail sentence of three years and/or a maximum fine of five Rs. 5000. In order for a case to be made against the accused a formal complaint by an officer, health worker or voluntary organisation is compulsory.

Under this act, companies can also be charged for an offence, by charging all those who were aware of the violation and are in a position of responsibility. Offences under this act are bailable and cognizable. Lastly the act provides that no case can be levied against a government or government worker for acting in good faith to uphold the provisions of the act.

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