Calls on social media for infant formula donations and distribution are illegal, warns Health Department
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PRETORIA – Amid shortages of infant formula particularly in KwaZulu-Natal following last week’s looting, the Department of Health has recommended that infant formula donations should only be made through the provincial departments of health.
Spokesperson for the Health Department, Popo Maja said despite the shortages of infant formula and other essential food supplies in some provinces, the calls on social media for donations and distribution of the infant formula are not in accordance with the law.
“Calls for infant formula donations and distribution on social media platforms are illegal. Government has regulatory frameworks for the management of commercial infant formula. It is therefore recommended that infant formula donations should be made through the provincial departments of health,” said Maja.
“The provincial departments of health will facilitate receipt of the donated infant formula to ensure compliance to the regulatory framework. Donors will then be directed to the appropriate district health personnel for further supporting of identified non-breastfeeding mothers according to their needs and based on assessment in the current context.”
Maja said this arrangement is an interim measure to mitigate the challenge at hand, thus it will be reviewed in due course as the situation normalises.
According to the law in South Africa, gazetted in December 2012, no person may undertake, participate or devise advertising in promoting infant formula, follow-up formula, infant of follow-up formula for special dietary or medical purposes, liquid milks, powdered milks, or powdered drinks marketed or otherwise represented as suitable for infants or young children.
The National Department of Health has also noted that in the aftermath of the unrest and the resultant food shortages, there has been social media posts promoting recipes for home-made replacement infant feeds.
“The department does not support the use of home-made infant formula because it can harm infants. These home-made infant formula recipes might not contain enough or too much of some nutrients and put infants at risk of getting sick and causing diarrhoea,” said Maja.
“We, therefore, urge mothers who are not breastfeeding their babies, not to use these recipes or any other unsuitable products such as coffee or tea creamers, tea with/without sugar or condensed milk.”
The Health Department has appealed to community members “to refrain from and stop posting and sharing misinformation around the calls for commercial infant formula donation and infant feeding that undermines breastfeeding”.
African News Agency (ANA)