NEW DELHI: The Union Health Ministry has asked the country’s apex health research agency to stop a research sponsored by a MNC food giant, recently underway in contravention of the law, to protect and promote breastfeeding in the country. Nestle, in violation of the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, had been funding a research in which pre-term babies were being observed for their growth patterns.
The company had engaged doctors in five private hospitals to observe 75 babies born between 28-34 weeks of gestation-hospitalized in the newborn intensive care units. The data collected could have been used in manufacturing or marketing baby formula meant for pre-term babies, sources explained.
Nestle’ association with the research titled “Multi-centric observational study to observe growth in preterm babies” was brought to the notice of the ministry by the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI). The BPNI, through the clinical trial registry of the ICMR, found that the hospitals concerned were in Bengaluru, Kolkata and Delhi. The trial had been approved by the ethical committees of respective hospitals.
BPNI central coordinator Arun Gupta said Nestle India and the hospitals should be prosecuted for the violation as the trial constitutes a criminal offense. “While this kind of violation to promote breastfeed substitute is not new for Nestle, the hospitals receiving monetary or material support should know better.”
Study is institution-based and all institutional ethics committee approvals were obtained. The company will provide all its support to ICMR on this issue