The Commerce Commission announced today that INC has applied for permission to enforce the marketing restrictions detailed in its INC Code of Practice for Marketing of Infant Formula (INC Code of Practice).
The voluntary INC Code of Practice - signed by all INC members - relates to the marketing of infant formula products for infants up to the age of six months.
In line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes (WHO Code), the INC Code of Practice prohibits infant formula advertising, the distribution of gifts or free samples to pregnant mothers or caregivers, and the offer of incentives to health professionals in exchange for the promotion of infant formula.
INC, which represents the interests of of infant formula stakeholders in New Zealand and Australia, including Fonterra, Nestlé, Nutricia, and Heinz, has asked that the Commerce Commission provide it the power to enforce its Code of Practice.
It fears otherwise that INC members, driven by the activities of non-members “may be incentivised to increase their own marketing.”
"While INC members have been committed to restriction of the type embodied in the INC Code of Practice and its predecessor (the NZIFMA Code of Practice) for some time, in the event that there was any increase, however small, in marketing by an industry participant, each INC member would have to reassess its position," said INC.
"Committed" to WHO Code
Granting it this authority will, INC claims, gift health officials in New Zealand time to push through mandatory regulations.
The WHO Code, devised in 1981 to to protect and promote breastfeeding and restrict the marketing of breast milk substitutes, was adopted on a voluntary basis by New Zealand in 1983.
Twenty years on, the New Zealand Ministry of Health is, according to INC, "committed to giving effect to the WHO Code."
“The Ministry of Health states that implementing the WHO Code is an important part of creating an overall environment that enables mothers to make the best possible feeding choice, based on impartial information free of commercial influence, and to be fully supported in doing so,” said INC.
“However, for a period of time before the Ministry of Health is able to impose the restriction, it would be clear to all members of the Infant Nutrition Council that they would not, and could not, be bound by relevant restrictions in the INC Code of Practice.”
The INC application was filed with the Commerce Commission under Section 58 of the New Zealand Commerce Act, which enables it to grant authorisation for restrictive trade practices.
In its application, INC acknowledged that such restrictions would "lessen competition by depriving manufacturers and marketers of infant formula the opportunity to consider methods of marketing and communication."
It insists, however, that "the public benefit to be gained from the arrangement outweighs the lessening in competition."
Click here to read the INC application.