The Council of Ministers adopted a subdecree on the promotion of food products for infants on Friday, designed to restrict the advertising and distribution of powdered milk for babies.
In Cambodia, where access to bacteria-free water is rarely guaranteed, giving powdered milk to infants under six months can be a death sentence, child experts say.
The subdecree on the Promotion of Infant Food Products calls for the “appropriate distribution of the product based on adequate information,” according to a Council of Ministers press statement.
The subdecree also calls for an end to “the distribution of free and low-cost substitute [milk] products and their promotion to mothers in every hospital and health institution,” the statement said.
The subdecree itself was not released, but according to the statement, it also requires companies promoting baby food to seek authorization from the Ministry of Health for all radio and television adverts.
“We are campaigning to promote breast-feeding because breast-feeding is very important for the mother and baby,” Minister of Health Nuth Sokhom said.
“If she breastfeeds she can save money and keep the baby healthier than using the commercial product.”
In August, the health ministry launched a media advertising campaign instructing the public not to feed babies under six months with powdered milk.
Nuth Sokhom acknowledged that promotions for powdered milk in hospitals have been a problem in the past.
Dr Chan Ketsana, a child health expert with the NGO Reproductive and Child Health Alliance, who is involved in breastfeeding training, said it is important to keep powdered milk for babies out of hospitals and to encourage women to breastfeed.
“It is very important not to give substitutes to babies who are less than six months old, it is very dangerous,” she said. “The ministry should be very strict when considering the advertising.”
Lak Srey, an administrative official at Nestle, one of the largest powdered milk distributors in Cambodia, said the country manager was out of the office and that the company was therefore unable to comment.