The contribution of infant food marketing to the obesogenic environment in Australia




Smith, Julie

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Australian Breastfeeding Association


Obesity has been growing rapidly among both children and adult Australians in recent decades, raising concern at the associated chronic disease burden, and generating debate over the extent of individual versus government responsibility. This paper briefly reviews recent scientific evidence on links between poor early life nutrition and obesity in later life, which suggests that artificial baby milk rather than breastfeeding in infancy is associated with a 30-50% higher likelihood of later life obesity. It then presents data on long-term trends in breastfeeding in Australia and on consumption of infant milk products since 1939. Evidence is also presented of increased marketing and promotion of breastmilk substitutes from the mid 1950s, including through the healthcare system, associated with the emergence of increased competition in the Australian infant food industry. This collaborative marketing effort by industry and health professionals in turn contributed importantly to the sharp decline in breastfeeding from the mid 1950s. As a consequence, most Australians born since 1955 were exposed to artificial baby milk in early infancy. A substantial proportion of Australian infants are still partially fed with artificial baby milk in the first 12 months of life. The example of infant food highlights that the healthcare system and the food industry, and not just individual mothers' choices, have contributed to poor infant nutrition and obesity trends in Australia. Redressing healthcare system and industry practices to restore a supportive environment for breastfeeding is thus argued to be a necessary element of the public health response to the current obesity problem.



Keywords: adolescent; advertizing; article; artificial milk; Australia; baby food; breast feeding; child; economics; human; infant; infant nutrition; marketing; obesity; policy; statistics; Adolescent; Advertising; Australia; Breast Feeding; Child; Humans; Infant;



Breastfeeding Review


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