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By Published on .

The International Advertising Association has produced a 30-second TV commercial to run pro bono on CNN International, NBC, Fox and Star to fight a growing threat to restrict advertising of breast-milk substitutes in certain areas of the world.

Zimbabwe will institute a new law in March that will restrict the advertising of such products, including infant formulas, for those under 5 years of age. Legislation making it illegal to promote the products is pending in Puerto Rico, and India, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka are debating similar measures.


The issue will intensify in May, when the United Nations' World Health Assembly in Geneva will vote on changing the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, adopted by the group in 1981.

The promotion of infant formula as a breast-milk substitute in developing markets became a major controversy nearly two decades ago. In 1981, the WHA, which helps establish policy for the World Health Organization, succeeded in winning a ban on marketing directly to new mothers with ads and free samples -- tactics that had prompted millions of women in emerging markets to stop breast-feeding their infants in favor of foods that marketers touted as more nutritious.

The latest measure being considered by WHA would severely limit or even ban the marketing of a range of products considered alternatives to breast milk. The range of products affected includes cereals, juices, puddings, yogurt, milk and infant formula.

While the WHA measure itself does not have the force of law, the concern is that individual nations will adopt the WHA recommendations into law.

"What is at stake here is the freedom of commercial speech," said Norman Vale, New York-based director general of the IAA. "The WHA won the battle for

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