Baby Food Industries Milk Profits from Poor Mothers

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Myths and misconceptions about breastfeeding work in favor of the $70 billion baby food industry, Felogene Anumo reported for Women’s eNews in July 2019. Tracing misconceptions linking breastfeeding and poverty back to the 17th century, Anumo examined how rising global sales of breastmilk substitutes depend on and reinforce “systems of oppression based on colonial histories including gender, class, race, caste and ethnicity.”

For example, a 2018 investigation, conducted by the Guardian and Save The Children, found that in deprived areas of the Philippines, Nestlé, Abbott, Mead Johnson and Wyeth (which is now owned by Nestlé) used underhanded methods, including some which clearly violated Philippine law, to encourage doctors, midwives, and local health workers to encourage low income mothers to use specific brands of formula milk.

As Anumo reported, in 2019, companies continue to use “aggressive, clandestine and often illegal methods to target mothers in the poorest parts of the world,” in efforts to persuade them to choose powdered milk over breastfeeding. However, these choices compromise infants’ health and have even led to infant deaths.

Globally, Asia accounts for 53% of the global market share of formula milk. The market research organization Euromonitor forecast that global sales would rise by four percent, with most of that growth occurring in “developing nations.” As Anumo wrote, “Essentially, the colonial legacy has taken the form of neo-colonialism, with global North-based corporations profiting in the global South, at the expense of the people—particularly women and their infants.” She described these trends as another example of  “corporate capture,” putting corporate profits over people’s lives and the environment.

In July 2018, the New York Times reported that US delegates to the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly embraced “the interests of infant formula manufacturers” and “upended” a resolution intended to encourage breast-feeding. Based on decades of research, the resolution stated that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and urged nations to limit inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Source: Felogene Anumo, “Get Off My Nipple: Stop the Baby Food Industry from Milking Profits,” Women’s eNews, July 29, 2019,

Student Researcher: Quillan (Yufeng) Zhen (City College of San Francisco)
Faculty Evaluator: Jennifer Levinson (City College of San Francisco)