Sunday, 15 December

Yerevan City Supermarket Chain Flouts the Law

Child Nutrition Advertising Needs Competent Monitoring

The first photo accompanying this article shows the Yerevan City supermarket located at 141 Sebastia Street in Yerevan. The second shows at sister store at 25 Tigran Petrosyan. In both, readers will see advertisements for infant food manufactured by the HiPP Company.

Such advertisements violate various Armenian laws regarding the sale of infant food. Here, we are specifically talking about Article 15 of the Advertising Law which prohibits the advertising of infant food or breast milk substitutes targeted for children under the age of six months. This law also bans text or pictures on breast milk substitute products promote the product.

Article 14 of Armenia’s Food Safety Law states that: Hidden advertising using trademarks and brand-names shall be prohibited where such types of foodstuff are being produced under trademarks and brand-names for which certain restrictions have been imposed by the RA Advertising Law.

Regarding the above obvious infringements, Yerevan City supermarket chain Director Vahram Kirakosyan told Hetq that the HiPP also produces food items for children older than six months. In fact, he stated that only a tiny fraction of the HiPP product line was targeted to newborns.

“We surely didn’t want to advertise the infant items. We are well aware that nothing can replace mother’s milk. It’s just that the HiPP product line is quite diverse and the infant items comprise a small fraction of it. Maybe it was an oversight on our part,” Kirakosyan said.

He said Yerevan City would supplement the HiPP ads with notices clearly pointing out that the products being promoted were designed by older kids.

“We will continue the ad campaign in the correct manner. If not, we’ll stop it all together.”

Director Kirakosyan couldn’t tell us when the ad banners had first been affixed. He said that the person in charge of the HiPP campaign was out of town and added that his might be the reason for the screw-up.

In addition to the above mentioned laws prohibiting certain types of ads, a law on promoting the use of breast milk has been drafted by the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Health Care, Maternity and Childhood.

Souren Krmoyan, an official with the Health Ministry, says the draft law is greatly in need and is on track for passage.

Mother’s milk contains over 100 elements that just cannot be artificially synthesized and which are vital for a child’s well being and proper growth.

Ara Babloyan, who chairs the above parliamentary committee, categorically states that the health of the populace starts with the breast feeding of infants.

Karineh Saribekyan, who heads the Maternity and Child Health Division, says there is nothing to prevent 95% of mothers to breast fee their infants. Nevertheless, statistics show that only 80% of mothers in Armenia do so. One of the leading causes for this is the use of artificial formula to feed very young infants.

Companies producing food items designed for children have ratcheted up their advertising in this regard.

Susanna Haroutyunyan, a childe specialist and President of the Confidence health NGO, says that the advertising arose with the first milk formulas. “Nestle, who started as a common barber, started mixing certain powders and came up with a primitive mixture that differed little from cow’s milk. He called it a miracle liquid that was a complete substitute for breast milk and that children who had been dying from drinking cow’s milk could now be saved with his new mixture. The advertising for such milk formula has continued till today.”

A few years ago, the NGO sent letters, signed by the RA Ministry of Health, UNICEF and the World Health Organization, to HiPP and Nestle. HiPP never responded, while Nestle, although denying the accusations, temporarily suspended selling Armenia porridge mixes designed for infants younger than four months.

According to State Revenue Committee stats, during the 1st quarter of 2010, the Armenian company Aleks Grig imported HiPP products. New Force Ltd. was importing Nestle items.

According to the State Commission for the Protection of Economic Competition, the market in Armenia for child nutrition for the same period was dominated by the companies Aleks Grig, New Force, Slaveks, Baby Sim and Natali Farm.

Hetq has already reported that the Armenia TV company airs commercials for HiPP juices, designed for infants 4 months and up, five times a week in the mornings. Other TV stations air similar commercial spots.

Hetq wrote to Armenia’s National TV and Radio Commission, asking what steps it was planning to take regarding stations airing such HiPP ads.

Hayk Avetisyan, who heads the Commission’s Monitoring Division, said that the juices in question aren’t being advertised as mother’s milk substitutes, which would be a violation of the Law on Advertising. He told us the Commission hadn’t found violations in commercials aired by Armenian TV stations advertising breast milk substitutes for infants up to six months old.

Perhaps Mr. Avetisyan isn’t aware that the World Health Organization and UNICEF urge that such infants be given only natural mother’s milk.

“Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants,” reads the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding.

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