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On a range of traditional wellbeing measures, such as export income, contribution to GDP and employment creation, the dairy industry underpins New Zealand's economy. In particular, infant formula is New Zealand's ‘export superstar'.Global baby food sales are seen as largely recession proof, with a wide range of groups and individuals benefitting from this trade. These include New Zealand's largest company, Fonterra, Chinese investors, former politicians, as well as Maori, both as dairy farmers and owners of new export enterprises.However, wellbeing is increasingly being viewed in a wider context. For example, in 2009, the Stiglitz report on economic performance and social progress argued that ‘[t]he time is ripe for our measurement system to shift emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people's well-being.'1 But what if New Zealand's dairy industry, and especially infant formula exports, are examined using a broader wellbeing lens?'Milk, especially cow's milk, is controversial. In recent years, New Zealand's dairy industry has been the subject of not only praise, but also concern and criticism. Disquiet centres on human, environmental and animal wellbeing.In 2007, Lincoln University scientist Keith Woodford's book Devil in the Milk was published.2 Woodford argued that consumption of A1 milk, the main milk type currently produced in New Zealand, contributes to increased incidence of heart disease and Type 1 diabetes. He advised that the New Zealand dairy industry should transfer to A2 milk production.Food allergies, including both gluten and lactose intolerance, are another influence on human wellbeing. While food intolerances are often subjectively determined, science has identified population groups with genetically-based lactose intolerance. This intolerance is thought to be due to long-term, natural selection processes.Historically, animal welfare groups have questioned various common dairying practices. In the past, these included cow tail docking, but other practices associated with milk production, such as killing male calves within a few days of birth, are also perceived as cruel. Although rare, there have also been some high profile prosecutions for neglect of dairy cows.3Then, in 2012, the New Zealand dairy industry's poor environmental record became the subject of international media attention based on the work of Massey University ecologist, Dr Mike Joy.4 Joy's research criticised New Zealand's dairy intensification, with the move towards higher herd numbers; more frequent milking; and greater use of fertilisers and supplementary feeds. In exposing the environmental costs of dairying to New Zealand, Joy was regarded by some as a traitor. The use of palm kernel expeller, a waste product from palm oil production, as supplementary feed has also been criticised. Detractors include Greenpeace, who have raised concerns about sustainability and environmental impact in palm oil producing countries.5 Others have questioned whether this trade will lead to biosecurity breaches.6In 2013, there were a range of high profile, dairying incidents in New Zealand. These included the detection of low levels of the nitrification inhibitor Dicyandiamide (DCD) in some New Zealand milk powder; the supposed contamination of some Fonterra whey protein used in infant formula manufacture with traces of the toxic bacteria clostridium botulinum (subsequently proved to be a false alarm); and Westland Milk's lactoferrin incident. 7-9 By claiming that New Zealand formula was ‘poisonous', Chinese infant formula manufacturers and media attempted to use these events to turn consumers away from international to domestically produced brands.7, 8A labour relations lens also highlights challenges within New Zealand's dairy industry. While acknowledging the industry's value to the New Zealand economy, researchers have questioned on-farm labour practices, particularly long working hours, low wages, as well as difficult, and sometimes dangerous, working conditions.10One result is that the industry has increasingly turned to the use of migrant workers, often with temporary work permits.11 These workers generally have more limited rights than New Zealand citizens and are potentially more vulnerable to abuse.A further challenge has been the national anxiety generated over the sale of large dairy farms to foreign owners, especially Chinese investors.12But is the New Zealand dairy industry also undermining global ‘best practice' infant feeding? And, if so, should New Zealand public health practitioners care?Infant formula exports to China: Big profits for New ZealandNew Zealand is one of the world's leading milk powder producers and exporters and infant formula is New Zealand's export superstar. In 2009, formula exports were worth NZ$753 million to the New Zealand economy, increasing from NZ$63 million in 1999.13Business commentators suggest formula export income may now be around $1 billion.14 One of the strongest global infant formula marketing trends is companies increasingly focusing their efforts on large, expanding offshore markets, particularly in East Asia.15This shift is attributed to East Asia's high birth numbers and positive economic prospects, as well as the fall in sales in traditional markets such as Europe and North America, given their birth rate declines and greater promotion and uptake of breastfeeding.After the USA, China was, in 2012, the second largest baby food and infant formula market (in the order of US$3–6 billion) in the world and projected to double in size by 2016.16Various factors are driving China's demand for imported breast milk substitutes. These include: urbanisation, an increase in maternal employment and higher disposable incomes. While more women enter the workplace, continuing to breastfeed after returning to work remains a challenge. Although China has provision for 98 days employer-insurance funded maternity leave, this is reportedly unavailable to many women in factories and precarious employment.17Other factors driving increased formula sales in China include: lack of women's education; shortage of health workers resulting in poor support and education about breastfeeding's benefits after childbirth; and, unethical infant formula marketing practices.18China's implementation of the World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (the WHO Code)—the main global framework for protecting breastfeeding and controlling the marketing of infant formula—is also reportedly weak.18 A Save the Children survey in China showed that 40% of mothers interviewed reported being contacted directly by formula companies; half of them had been contacted in hospitals and over one-third by phone.18The vast majority reported company representatives recommending their companies' products or giving them free samples. This supports China's Consumer Association's survey findings that over half of the country's mothers received information about alternatives to breastfeeding during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.19 Research in six Chinese cities also found that 16 of the 35 food stores surveyed promoted infant formula, e.g. through salespeople, posters and gifts.18Perhaps most importantly for New Zealand however, success in China's infant formula market is reliant on consumer demand for a ‘safe', premium product from perceived high-quality producers.These heightened infant food safety fears are a legacy of the 2008 melamine scandal, in which locally produced formula from China's biggest dairy processor Sanlu (43% owned by New Zealand's dairy giant Fonterra) was contaminated with melamine (a compound used in plastics production which makes milk appear to have a higher protein content). Six babies died and an estimated 50,000 more were hospitalised, with thousands more affected.20This disaster became the focus of international media attention largely due to the Chinese authorities' delay in public notification and full product recall, but also the several week delay in Fonterra reporting this to New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, who then alerted Chinese authorities.21Consequently, in China, safety and quality, generally associated with imported brands, override price in artificial infant milk purchase.15 Trading on its ‘clean, green' brand, some New Zealand product (costing approximately $20 a can in New Zealand) can sell in China for over $70 a can.Despite the current domination of China's marketplace by imported infant formula brands, there is some suggestion that Chinese consumers may eventually turn away from overseas brands due to: the tightening of marketing controls on foreign manufacturers operating in China; the development and upgrading of China's own dairy industry and formula safety standards; and, in mid 2013, the launch of a nationwide breastfeeding promotion campaign.22In the meantime, New Zealand continues to benefit from China's growing demand. In 2012, New Zealand was the second largest offshore provider of infant formula for the Chinese market (18% share), after Singapore (37% share), with Australia the third largest (15% share).23 This has been greatly facilitated by the 2008 New Zealand China Free Trade Agreement, which included a 5 to 6 year phase out of infant formula tariffs.Multimillion dollar formula processing plants are being developed in New Zealand to manufacture formula for China's rapidly expanding market. In 2011, a $100 million formula plant Synlait (51% Chinese owned) opened at Dunsandel, focussed on supplying China. Then, in April 2013, leading Chinese infant formula manufacturer Yashili International Holdings received approval to invest NZ$230 million in the construction of a formula processing plant south of Auckland. These developments have received high level political, business and sporting endorsement in New Zealand, with national sports teams' sponsorships and government ministers, including the Prime Minister, John Key, attending various openings.The potential adverse health effects of increased infant formula consumption have been largely overlooked or even positively portrayed in terms of health provision and food security, safety and quality. For instance, at Synlait Milk's opening, its CEO stated that “Growing world-wide demand for high-value formulated milk powders designed to improve families' normal diets and protect against health concerns drove the development.”24The public health implications of increased infant formula exports to ChinaInternational agencies, including UNICEF (2012) and Save the Children (2013), have expressed concern about sharply declining breastfeeding rates, including exclusive breastfeeding among infants younger than 6 months, in East Asia and China.25, 18This concern also centres on the marketing and lobbying tactics used by formula marketers. Obtaining accurate nationally representative breastfeeding rates in China is difficult, but UNICEF reports that between 2005–2009, 41% of Chinese children commenced breastfeeding, with only 28% exclusively breastfed at 6 months.26Lack of exclusive breastfeeding increases the risk of infant morbidity and mortality; a risk that is greatly increased where water and sanitation for preparing formula is poor and parents may be illiterate and unable to read preparation instructions.27 In 2012, UNICEF reported that good sanitation facilities were available, in 2008, to only 58% and 52% of China's urban and rural populations respectively.28In a survey showing decline in breastfeeding rates in central and western China, Guo29 et al note that promoting breastfeeding and other good child feeding practices may reduce not only infection-associated child mortality and morbidity in poor rural areas, but also the future incidence of various noncommunicable diseases.In June 2013, WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, noted that:\"Efforts to prevent noncommunicable diseases go against the business interests of powerful economic operators. In my view, this is one of the biggest challenges facing health promotion. As the new publication makes clear, it is not just Big Tobacco anymore. Public health must also contend with Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Alcohol. All of these industries fear regulation, and protect themselves by using the same tactics.Research has documented these tactics well. They include front groups, lobbies, promises of self-regulation, lawsuits, and industry-funded research that confuses the evidence and keeps the public in doubt. In the view of WHO, the formulation of health policies must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests... \"These [tactics] include arguments that place the responsibility for harm to health on individuals, and portray government actions as interference in personal liberties and free choice.” 30But what could countries such as New Zealand do to ensure its infant formula export trade meets best practice? In 1983, New Zealand signed the World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, 1981 (the WHO Code).This global health framework aims to protect breastfeeding and restrict how companies can market infant formula. New Zealand implements the WHO Code under three voluntary and self-regulatory codes as well as the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. New Zealand's voluntary industry agreement applies within New Zealand to infant formula manufacture and importing, including restricting the marketing of infant formula for infants under 6 months.As of mid-2013, industry standards for infant formula manufacture and marketing within New Zealand are stronger than those governing our exports. Export standards (under consideration) include some exemptions on formula composition and a blanket exemption on labelling, requiring only that these meet importing countries' requirements. Some New Zealand exporters targeting East Asian markets are promoting formula for babies.In response to calls from within our dairy sector for ‘alignment' of New Zealand's infant formula standards, various changes have been made but concerns are solely trade related. They include the branding and marketing as ‘NZ-made' formula produced in China by domestic companies, thus illegally trading on New Zealand's ‘clean, green' image. Another key concern is piracy of New Zealand produced infant formula to China, bypassing export regulations and tariffs. As a reaction to these developments, late 2012 saw the formation of the New Zealand Infant Formula Exporters Association to represent and protect the interests of infant formula manufacturers, including developing an accreditation process for approved export brands. In June 2013, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) introduced a brand register for all infant formula produced in New Zealand intended for export to China.31Concerns about unregistered exporters not adhering to New Zealand controls and giving New Zealand products a bad name are very real. But given little consideration are the ethical and public health implications for New Zealand as a major infant formula producer and exporter.New Zealand promotes breastfeeding among its own population even though there are debates about the adequacy of national efforts. By contrast, along with certain other countries, New Zealand is potentially undermining breastfeeding practice in countries such as China where breastfeeding protection is weaker.ConclusionOn narrow economic measures of wellbeing New Zealand's dairy industry is a huge success. However, major challenges have been identified for broader wellbeing outcomes. New Zealand regulators and other stakeholders are endeavouring to improve outcomes in certain environmental and animal welfare areas, such as the Dairy and Clean Streams Accord.By contrast, little attention has been paid to whether aspects of the dairy trade undermine best practice infant feeding. Potential adverse health effects associated with the decline in breastfeeding in other nations are possibly perceived as irrelevant to New Zealand. Some may also have been ‘cowed into silence', fearing that to question New Zealand's infant formula export bonanza, especially to China, may be perceived as economic treason.As in fully industrialised countries, balancing good child health outcomes (including breastfeeding), maternal employment and gender equity will be complex in China. While New Zealand could show ethical leadership with regard to the marketing of infant formula exports, much of the solution lies with China. Improved maternity leave systems and WHO Code enforcement is required, along with implementation of WHO and UNICEF's Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.More discussion is also needed on these issues in New Zealand. In contrast to infant formula exporters' profits and university researchers' grants to improve infant formula composition to better ‘emulate' human breastmilk, no one stands to profit from breastfeeding protection. Whereas various constituent groups, including environmentalists, trade advocates and animal welfare groups, have an interest in better dairying practices, only public health proponents are specifically concerned with improving infant and maternal health.It is therefore important that the health and medical community (paediatricians, nutritionists, midwives, child health advocates, and communicable and non-communicable disease experts) pays more attention to the potential and actual impact of dairy industry practices and regulations on infant and child wellbeing so that, on all measures New Zealand's dairy industry is successful.Note: Statements or opinions expressed in the Journal reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect official policy of the New Zealand Medical Association unless stated as such.\r\n

Summary

Abstract

On narrow economic measures of wellbeing, New Zealands dairy industry is a huge success. Infant formula, in particular, is New Zealands export superstar. However, using a broader wellbeing lens, there is some public disquiet about environmental, human and animal wellbeing associated with the dairy industry. -This article questions whether New Zealands dairy industry is also undermining global best practice infant feeding. It argues that while there is support for increased trade and exports, there are few voices promoting global infant health and that discussion is needed on this issue by the New Zealand public health community.

Aim

Method

Results

Conclusion

Author Information

Judith A Galtry, Australian Centre for Economic Research on Health, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Acknowledgements

Correspondence

Dr Judith Galtry, Australian Centre for Economic Research on Health, Australian National University, cnr Mills & Eggleston Roads, Canberra 2600, Australia.

Correspondence Email

jgaltry@actrix.co.nz

Competing Interests

Ni.

1. Stiglitz JE., Sen A, Fitoussi JP. Report of the Commission on the measurement of economic performance et social progress, CMEPSP, September, 14, 2009, p. 12. http://www.stiglitz-sen-fitoussi.fr/documents/rapport_anglais.pdf [Accessed 29/4/13]. 2. Woodford K. Devil in the Milk: Illness, health, and the politics of A1 and A2 milk. Nelson: Craig Potton Publishing; 2007. 3. MilkPride pleads guilty to animal cruelty. Stuff online 9/5/13 http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/dairy/8652847/MilkPride-pleads-guilty-to-animal-cruelty [Accessed 12/5/13]. 4. Anderson, C. New Zealands green tourism push clashes with realities. New York Times, 16/11/12. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/business/global/new-zealands-green-tourism-push-clashes-with-realities.html [Accessed 5/4/13]. 5. Greenpeace. Fonterras intensification model drives palm-based animal feed demand http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/PageFiles/111846/fonterra-connection.pdf undated [Accessed 12/4/13]. 6. Alarm at biosecurity risk of palm kernel feed. Stuff online 7/5/13. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/agribusiness/8640322/Alarm-at-biosecurity-risk-of-palm-kernel-feed [Accessed 15/6/13]. 7. Hickey, B. NZ milk formula exporter says industry in crisis mode after DCD scare prompts Chinese claims that NZ milk is 'toxic' and 'poisonous'. Rural News 4/2/13. http://www.interest.co.nz/rural-news/62994/nz-milk-formula-exporter-says-industry-crisis-mode-after-dcd-scare-prompts-chinese- [Accessed 12/5/13].8. Fox, A. Fonterra botulism scare shatters faith in New Zealand. Stuff.co.nz 10/8/13. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/dairy/9025054/Faith-in-New-Zealand-shattered [Accessed 22/8/13].9. Fox A. Cronshaw T, Piddock G, Small V. Westland Milk exports contaminated. The Press 19/8/13. http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/9060016/Westland-Milk-exports-contaminated [Accessed 22/8/13]. 10. Callister P, Tipples, RS. Essential workers in the dairy industry. Institute of Policy Studies Working Paper 10/08, pp.19. Victoria University of Wellington, June 2010. 11. Tipples RS, Rawlinson P, Greenhalgh J. Vulnerability in New Zealand dairy farming: the case of Filipino migrants. New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations, 2013; 37. 12. Adams, C. Crafar dairy farms deal finally settled. New Zealand Herald, 1/12/12. www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10851202 [Accessed 12/5/13]. 13. Coriolis Research Consulting Strategy. Moving to the centre: the future of the New Zealand food industry. Final Report to the Ministry of Economic Development. October 2010. http://www.med.govt.nz/sectors-industries/food-beverage/pdf-docs-library/coriolis-report-pdf [Accessed 1/2/12]. 14. Dann L. Baby milk hotter than heroin in Hong Kong. New Zealand Herald, 29/4/13. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10880288 [Accessed 12/5/13]. 15. Euromonitor International. Safety First: Global baby food opportunities and challenges to 2015. London: Euromonitor International; 2011. 16. AM Mindpower Solutions. China baby food and infant formula market research report outlook to 2016. 1/5/12. http://www.marketresearch.com/AM-Mindpower-Solutions-v3771/China-Baby-Food-Infant-Formula-6984285/ [Accessed 12/1/13]. 17. Khan N. Longer maternity leave in China signals more womens rights. Bloomberg 22/11/11. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-22/longer-maternity-leave-in-china-signals-more-women-s-rights-1-.html [Accessed 12/6/13]. 18. Save the Children. Superfood for babies: How overcoming barriers to breastfeeding will save childrens lives; London: Save the Children; 2013. 19. China's declining breastfeeding rates blamed on inappropriate marketing. WantChinaTimes, 4/3/13. http://www.wantchinatimes.com [Accessed 17/3/13]. 20. World Health Organization. Expert meeting to review toxicological aspects of melamine and cyanuric acid, 1-4 December 2008. Geneva, WHO. http://www.who.int/foodsafety/fs_management/conclusions_recommendations.pdf [Accessed 2/4/13]. 21. Yan J. Fonterra in the San Lu Milk scandal: A case study of a New Zealand company in a product-harm crisis: a dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Commerce with Honours at Lincoln University, 2011. 22. Bloomberg in Shanghai. Chinese government places new limits on infant formula makers. South China Morning Post. 29/10/13. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1343010/chinese-government-places-new-limits-infant-formula-makers [Accessed 18/11/13]. 23. OSullivan, F. Chinese eager to milk brand New Zealand. New Zealand Herald, 18/1/2013, p.B12. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10859798 [Accessed 22/1/13]. 24. Synlait. Media Release. Synlait Milk unveils $100 million infant nutritional facility. 22/11/11. http://www.synlait.com/site/uploads/2011/11/Synlait-Milk-Media-Release-22-November-2011.pdf [Accessed 17/3/13]. 25. UNICEF rings alarm bells as breastfeeding rates plummet in East Asia. Press Release 2/5/12 http://www.unicef.org/media/media_62337.html [Accessed 10/3/13]. 26. UNICEF. The state of the worlds children 2012. Children in an urban world. Table 2: Nutrition. NY: UNICEF; 2012. http://www.unicef.org/sowc [Accessed 14/2/13]. 27. World Health Organization and UNICEF. Global strategy for infant and young child feeding. Geneva: WHO; 2003. 28. UNICEF. The state of the worlds children 2012. Children in an urban world. Table 3: Health. NY: UNICEF. 2012. http://www.unicef.org/sowc/files/ [Accessed 10/2/13]. 29. Guo S, Fu X, Scherpbier RW, et al. Breastfeeding rates in central and western China in 2010: implications for child and population health. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2013;91:322-331. Published online: 23 March 2013. http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/91/5/12-111310/en/ [Accessed 17/5/13]. 30. WHO Director-General addresses health promotion conference. Dr Margaret Chan. Director-General of the World Health Organization. Opening address at the 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion, Helsinki, Finland. 10 June 2013.31. Ministry of Primary Industries. Exports of infant formula to China. Fact sheet. Undated. http://www.foodsafety.govt.nz/elibrary/industry/infant-formula-factsheet-english.pdf. [Accessed 17/11/13].

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On a range of traditional wellbeing measures, such as export income, contribution to GDP and employment creation, the dairy industry underpins New Zealand's economy. In particular, infant formula is New Zealand's ‘export superstar'.Global baby food sales are seen as largely recession proof, with a wide range of groups and individuals benefitting from this trade. These include New Zealand's largest company, Fonterra, Chinese investors, former politicians, as well as Maori, both as dairy farmers and owners of new export enterprises.However, wellbeing is increasingly being viewed in a wider context. For example, in 2009, the Stiglitz report on economic performance and social progress argued that ‘[t]he time is ripe for our measurement system to shift emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people's well-being.'1 But what if New Zealand's dairy industry, and especially infant formula exports, are examined using a broader wellbeing lens?'Milk, especially cow's milk, is controversial. In recent years, New Zealand's dairy industry has been the subject of not only praise, but also concern and criticism. Disquiet centres on human, environmental and animal wellbeing.In 2007, Lincoln University scientist Keith Woodford's book Devil in the Milk was published.2 Woodford argued that consumption of A1 milk, the main milk type currently produced in New Zealand, contributes to increased incidence of heart disease and Type 1 diabetes. He advised that the New Zealand dairy industry should transfer to A2 milk production.Food allergies, including both gluten and lactose intolerance, are another influence on human wellbeing. While food intolerances are often subjectively determined, science has identified population groups with genetically-based lactose intolerance. This intolerance is thought to be due to long-term, natural selection processes.Historically, animal welfare groups have questioned various common dairying practices. In the past, these included cow tail docking, but other practices associated with milk production, such as killing male calves within a few days of birth, are also perceived as cruel. Although rare, there have also been some high profile prosecutions for neglect of dairy cows.3Then, in 2012, the New Zealand dairy industry's poor environmental record became the subject of international media attention based on the work of Massey University ecologist, Dr Mike Joy.4 Joy's research criticised New Zealand's dairy intensification, with the move towards higher herd numbers; more frequent milking; and greater use of fertilisers and supplementary feeds. In exposing the environmental costs of dairying to New Zealand, Joy was regarded by some as a traitor. The use of palm kernel expeller, a waste product from palm oil production, as supplementary feed has also been criticised. Detractors include Greenpeace, who have raised concerns about sustainability and environmental impact in palm oil producing countries.5 Others have questioned whether this trade will lead to biosecurity breaches.6In 2013, there were a range of high profile, dairying incidents in New Zealand. These included the detection of low levels of the nitrification inhibitor Dicyandiamide (DCD) in some New Zealand milk powder; the supposed contamination of some Fonterra whey protein used in infant formula manufacture with traces of the toxic bacteria clostridium botulinum (subsequently proved to be a false alarm); and Westland Milk's lactoferrin incident. 7-9 By claiming that New Zealand formula was ‘poisonous', Chinese infant formula manufacturers and media attempted to use these events to turn consumers away from international to domestically produced brands.7, 8A labour relations lens also highlights challenges within New Zealand's dairy industry. While acknowledging the industry's value to the New Zealand economy, researchers have questioned on-farm labour practices, particularly long working hours, low wages, as well as difficult, and sometimes dangerous, working conditions.10One result is that the industry has increasingly turned to the use of migrant workers, often with temporary work permits.11 These workers generally have more limited rights than New Zealand citizens and are potentially more vulnerable to abuse.A further challenge has been the national anxiety generated over the sale of large dairy farms to foreign owners, especially Chinese investors.12But is the New Zealand dairy industry also undermining global ‘best practice' infant feeding? And, if so, should New Zealand public health practitioners care?Infant formula exports to China: Big profits for New ZealandNew Zealand is one of the world's leading milk powder producers and exporters and infant formula is New Zealand's export superstar. In 2009, formula exports were worth NZ$753 million to the New Zealand economy, increasing from NZ$63 million in 1999.13Business commentators suggest formula export income may now be around $1 billion.14 One of the strongest global infant formula marketing trends is companies increasingly focusing their efforts on large, expanding offshore markets, particularly in East Asia.15This shift is attributed to East Asia's high birth numbers and positive economic prospects, as well as the fall in sales in traditional markets such as Europe and North America, given their birth rate declines and greater promotion and uptake of breastfeeding.After the USA, China was, in 2012, the second largest baby food and infant formula market (in the order of US$3–6 billion) in the world and projected to double in size by 2016.16Various factors are driving China's demand for imported breast milk substitutes. These include: urbanisation, an increase in maternal employment and higher disposable incomes. While more women enter the workplace, continuing to breastfeed after returning to work remains a challenge. Although China has provision for 98 days employer-insurance funded maternity leave, this is reportedly unavailable to many women in factories and precarious employment.17Other factors driving increased formula sales in China include: lack of women's education; shortage of health workers resulting in poor support and education about breastfeeding's benefits after childbirth; and, unethical infant formula marketing practices.18China's implementation of the World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (the WHO Code)—the main global framework for protecting breastfeeding and controlling the marketing of infant formula—is also reportedly weak.18 A Save the Children survey in China showed that 40% of mothers interviewed reported being contacted directly by formula companies; half of them had been contacted in hospitals and over one-third by phone.18The vast majority reported company representatives recommending their companies' products or giving them free samples. This supports China's Consumer Association's survey findings that over half of the country's mothers received information about alternatives to breastfeeding during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.19 Research in six Chinese cities also found that 16 of the 35 food stores surveyed promoted infant formula, e.g. through salespeople, posters and gifts.18Perhaps most importantly for New Zealand however, success in China's infant formula market is reliant on consumer demand for a ‘safe', premium product from perceived high-quality producers.These heightened infant food safety fears are a legacy of the 2008 melamine scandal, in which locally produced formula from China's biggest dairy processor Sanlu (43% owned by New Zealand's dairy giant Fonterra) was contaminated with melamine (a compound used in plastics production which makes milk appear to have a higher protein content). Six babies died and an estimated 50,000 more were hospitalised, with thousands more affected.20This disaster became the focus of international media attention largely due to the Chinese authorities' delay in public notification and full product recall, but also the several week delay in Fonterra reporting this to New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, who then alerted Chinese authorities.21Consequently, in China, safety and quality, generally associated with imported brands, override price in artificial infant milk purchase.15 Trading on its ‘clean, green' brand, some New Zealand product (costing approximately $20 a can in New Zealand) can sell in China for over $70 a can.Despite the current domination of China's marketplace by imported infant formula brands, there is some suggestion that Chinese consumers may eventually turn away from overseas brands due to: the tightening of marketing controls on foreign manufacturers operating in China; the development and upgrading of China's own dairy industry and formula safety standards; and, in mid 2013, the launch of a nationwide breastfeeding promotion campaign.22In the meantime, New Zealand continues to benefit from China's growing demand. In 2012, New Zealand was the second largest offshore provider of infant formula for the Chinese market (18% share), after Singapore (37% share), with Australia the third largest (15% share).23 This has been greatly facilitated by the 2008 New Zealand China Free Trade Agreement, which included a 5 to 6 year phase out of infant formula tariffs.Multimillion dollar formula processing plants are being developed in New Zealand to manufacture formula for China's rapidly expanding market. In 2011, a $100 million formula plant Synlait (51% Chinese owned) opened at Dunsandel, focussed on supplying China. Then, in April 2013, leading Chinese infant formula manufacturer Yashili International Holdings received approval to invest NZ$230 million in the construction of a formula processing plant south of Auckland. These developments have received high level political, business and sporting endorsement in New Zealand, with national sports teams' sponsorships and government ministers, including the Prime Minister, John Key, attending various openings.The potential adverse health effects of increased infant formula consumption have been largely overlooked or even positively portrayed in terms of health provision and food security, safety and quality. For instance, at Synlait Milk's opening, its CEO stated that “Growing world-wide demand for high-value formulated milk powders designed to improve families' normal diets and protect against health concerns drove the development.”24The public health implications of increased infant formula exports to ChinaInternational agencies, including UNICEF (2012) and Save the Children (2013), have expressed concern about sharply declining breastfeeding rates, including exclusive breastfeeding among infants younger than 6 months, in East Asia and China.25, 18This concern also centres on the marketing and lobbying tactics used by formula marketers. Obtaining accurate nationally representative breastfeeding rates in China is difficult, but UNICEF reports that between 2005–2009, 41% of Chinese children commenced breastfeeding, with only 28% exclusively breastfed at 6 months.26Lack of exclusive breastfeeding increases the risk of infant morbidity and mortality; a risk that is greatly increased where water and sanitation for preparing formula is poor and parents may be illiterate and unable to read preparation instructions.27 In 2012, UNICEF reported that good sanitation facilities were available, in 2008, to only 58% and 52% of China's urban and rural populations respectively.28In a survey showing decline in breastfeeding rates in central and western China, Guo29 et al note that promoting breastfeeding and other good child feeding practices may reduce not only infection-associated child mortality and morbidity in poor rural areas, but also the future incidence of various noncommunicable diseases.In June 2013, WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, noted that:\"Efforts to prevent noncommunicable diseases go against the business interests of powerful economic operators. In my view, this is one of the biggest challenges facing health promotion. As the new publication makes clear, it is not just Big Tobacco anymore. Public health must also contend with Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Alcohol. All of these industries fear regulation, and protect themselves by using the same tactics.Research has documented these tactics well. They include front groups, lobbies, promises of self-regulation, lawsuits, and industry-funded research that confuses the evidence and keeps the public in doubt. In the view of WHO, the formulation of health policies must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests... \"These [tactics] include arguments that place the responsibility for harm to health on individuals, and portray government actions as interference in personal liberties and free choice.” 30But what could countries such as New Zealand do to ensure its infant formula export trade meets best practice? In 1983, New Zealand signed the World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, 1981 (the WHO Code).This global health framework aims to protect breastfeeding and restrict how companies can market infant formula. New Zealand implements the WHO Code under three voluntary and self-regulatory codes as well as the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. New Zealand's voluntary industry agreement applies within New Zealand to infant formula manufacture and importing, including restricting the marketing of infant formula for infants under 6 months.As of mid-2013, industry standards for infant formula manufacture and marketing within New Zealand are stronger than those governing our exports. Export standards (under consideration) include some exemptions on formula composition and a blanket exemption on labelling, requiring only that these meet importing countries' requirements. Some New Zealand exporters targeting East Asian markets are promoting formula for babies.In response to calls from within our dairy sector for ‘alignment' of New Zealand's infant formula standards, various changes have been made but concerns are solely trade related. They include the branding and marketing as ‘NZ-made' formula produced in China by domestic companies, thus illegally trading on New Zealand's ‘clean, green' image. Another key concern is piracy of New Zealand produced infant formula to China, bypassing export regulations and tariffs. As a reaction to these developments, late 2012 saw the formation of the New Zealand Infant Formula Exporters Association to represent and protect the interests of infant formula manufacturers, including developing an accreditation process for approved export brands. In June 2013, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) introduced a brand register for all infant formula produced in New Zealand intended for export to China.31Concerns about unregistered exporters not adhering to New Zealand controls and giving New Zealand products a bad name are very real. But given little consideration are the ethical and public health implications for New Zealand as a major infant formula producer and exporter.New Zealand promotes breastfeeding among its own population even though there are debates about the adequacy of national efforts. By contrast, along with certain other countries, New Zealand is potentially undermining breastfeeding practice in countries such as China where breastfeeding protection is weaker.ConclusionOn narrow economic measures of wellbeing New Zealand's dairy industry is a huge success. However, major challenges have been identified for broader wellbeing outcomes. New Zealand regulators and other stakeholders are endeavouring to improve outcomes in certain environmental and animal welfare areas, such as the Dairy and Clean Streams Accord.By contrast, little attention has been paid to whether aspects of the dairy trade undermine best practice infant feeding. Potential adverse health effects associated with the decline in breastfeeding in other nations are possibly perceived as irrelevant to New Zealand. Some may also have been ‘cowed into silence', fearing that to question New Zealand's infant formula export bonanza, especially to China, may be perceived as economic treason.As in fully industrialised countries, balancing good child health outcomes (including breastfeeding), maternal employment and gender equity will be complex in China. While New Zealand could show ethical leadership with regard to the marketing of infant formula exports, much of the solution lies with China. Improved maternity leave systems and WHO Code enforcement is required, along with implementation of WHO and UNICEF's Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.More discussion is also needed on these issues in New Zealand. In contrast to infant formula exporters' profits and university researchers' grants to improve infant formula composition to better ‘emulate' human breastmilk, no one stands to profit from breastfeeding protection. Whereas various constituent groups, including environmentalists, trade advocates and animal welfare groups, have an interest in better dairying practices, only public health proponents are specifically concerned with improving infant and maternal health.It is therefore important that the health and medical community (paediatricians, nutritionists, midwives, child health advocates, and communicable and non-communicable disease experts) pays more attention to the potential and actual impact of dairy industry practices and regulations on infant and child wellbeing so that, on all measures New Zealand's dairy industry is successful.Note: Statements or opinions expressed in the Journal reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect official policy of the New Zealand Medical Association unless stated as such.\r\n

Summary

Abstract

On narrow economic measures of wellbeing, New Zealands dairy industry is a huge success. Infant formula, in particular, is New Zealands export superstar. However, using a broader wellbeing lens, there is some public disquiet about environmental, human and animal wellbeing associated with the dairy industry. -This article questions whether New Zealands dairy industry is also undermining global best practice infant feeding. It argues that while there is support for increased trade and exports, there are few voices promoting global infant health and that discussion is needed on this issue by the New Zealand public health community.

Aim

Method

Results

Conclusion

Author Information

Judith A Galtry, Australian Centre for Economic Research on Health, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Acknowledgements

Correspondence

Dr Judith Galtry, Australian Centre for Economic Research on Health, Australian National University, cnr Mills & Eggleston Roads, Canberra 2600, Australia.

Correspondence Email

jgaltry@actrix.co.nz

Competing Interests

Ni.

1. Stiglitz JE., Sen A, Fitoussi JP. Report of the Commission on the measurement of economic performance et social progress, CMEPSP, September, 14, 2009, p. 12. http://www.stiglitz-sen-fitoussi.fr/documents/rapport_anglais.pdf [Accessed 29/4/13]. 2. Woodford K. Devil in the Milk: Illness, health, and the politics of A1 and A2 milk. Nelson: Craig Potton Publishing; 2007. 3. MilkPride pleads guilty to animal cruelty. Stuff online 9/5/13 http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/dairy/8652847/MilkPride-pleads-guilty-to-animal-cruelty [Accessed 12/5/13]. 4. Anderson, C. New Zealands green tourism push clashes with realities. New York Times, 16/11/12. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/business/global/new-zealands-green-tourism-push-clashes-with-realities.html [Accessed 5/4/13]. 5. Greenpeace. Fonterras intensification model drives palm-based animal feed demand http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/PageFiles/111846/fonterra-connection.pdf undated [Accessed 12/4/13]. 6. Alarm at biosecurity risk of palm kernel feed. Stuff online 7/5/13. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/agribusiness/8640322/Alarm-at-biosecurity-risk-of-palm-kernel-feed [Accessed 15/6/13]. 7. Hickey, B. NZ milk formula exporter says industry in crisis mode after DCD scare prompts Chinese claims that NZ milk is 'toxic' and 'poisonous'. Rural News 4/2/13. http://www.interest.co.nz/rural-news/62994/nz-milk-formula-exporter-says-industry-crisis-mode-after-dcd-scare-prompts-chinese- [Accessed 12/5/13].8. Fox, A. Fonterra botulism scare shatters faith in New Zealand. Stuff.co.nz 10/8/13. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/dairy/9025054/Faith-in-New-Zealand-shattered [Accessed 22/8/13].9. Fox A. Cronshaw T, Piddock G, Small V. Westland Milk exports contaminated. The Press 19/8/13. http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/9060016/Westland-Milk-exports-contaminated [Accessed 22/8/13]. 10. Callister P, Tipples, RS. Essential workers in the dairy industry. Institute of Policy Studies Working Paper 10/08, pp.19. Victoria University of Wellington, June 2010. 11. Tipples RS, Rawlinson P, Greenhalgh J. Vulnerability in New Zealand dairy farming: the case of Filipino migrants. New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations, 2013; 37. 12. Adams, C. Crafar dairy farms deal finally settled. New Zealand Herald, 1/12/12. www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10851202 [Accessed 12/5/13]. 13. Coriolis Research Consulting Strategy. Moving to the centre: the future of the New Zealand food industry. Final Report to the Ministry of Economic Development. October 2010. http://www.med.govt.nz/sectors-industries/food-beverage/pdf-docs-library/coriolis-report-pdf [Accessed 1/2/12]. 14. Dann L. Baby milk hotter than heroin in Hong Kong. New Zealand Herald, 29/4/13. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10880288 [Accessed 12/5/13]. 15. Euromonitor International. Safety First: Global baby food opportunities and challenges to 2015. London: Euromonitor International; 2011. 16. AM Mindpower Solutions. China baby food and infant formula market research report outlook to 2016. 1/5/12. http://www.marketresearch.com/AM-Mindpower-Solutions-v3771/China-Baby-Food-Infant-Formula-6984285/ [Accessed 12/1/13]. 17. Khan N. Longer maternity leave in China signals more womens rights. Bloomberg 22/11/11. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-22/longer-maternity-leave-in-china-signals-more-women-s-rights-1-.html [Accessed 12/6/13]. 18. Save the Children. Superfood for babies: How overcoming barriers to breastfeeding will save childrens lives; London: Save the Children; 2013. 19. China's declining breastfeeding rates blamed on inappropriate marketing. WantChinaTimes, 4/3/13. http://www.wantchinatimes.com [Accessed 17/3/13]. 20. World Health Organization. Expert meeting to review toxicological aspects of melamine and cyanuric acid, 1-4 December 2008. Geneva, WHO. http://www.who.int/foodsafety/fs_management/conclusions_recommendations.pdf [Accessed 2/4/13]. 21. Yan J. Fonterra in the San Lu Milk scandal: A case study of a New Zealand company in a product-harm crisis: a dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Commerce with Honours at Lincoln University, 2011. 22. Bloomberg in Shanghai. Chinese government places new limits on infant formula makers. South China Morning Post. 29/10/13. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1343010/chinese-government-places-new-limits-infant-formula-makers [Accessed 18/11/13]. 23. OSullivan, F. Chinese eager to milk brand New Zealand. New Zealand Herald, 18/1/2013, p.B12. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10859798 [Accessed 22/1/13]. 24. Synlait. Media Release. Synlait Milk unveils $100 million infant nutritional facility. 22/11/11. http://www.synlait.com/site/uploads/2011/11/Synlait-Milk-Media-Release-22-November-2011.pdf [Accessed 17/3/13]. 25. UNICEF rings alarm bells as breastfeeding rates plummet in East Asia. Press Release 2/5/12 http://www.unicef.org/media/media_62337.html [Accessed 10/3/13]. 26. UNICEF. The state of the worlds children 2012. Children in an urban world. Table 2: Nutrition. NY: UNICEF; 2012. http://www.unicef.org/sowc [Accessed 14/2/13]. 27. World Health Organization and UNICEF. Global strategy for infant and young child feeding. Geneva: WHO; 2003. 28. UNICEF. The state of the worlds children 2012. Children in an urban world. Table 3: Health. NY: UNICEF. 2012. http://www.unicef.org/sowc/files/ [Accessed 10/2/13]. 29. Guo S, Fu X, Scherpbier RW, et al. Breastfeeding rates in central and western China in 2010: implications for child and population health. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2013;91:322-331. Published online: 23 March 2013. http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/91/5/12-111310/en/ [Accessed 17/5/13]. 30. WHO Director-General addresses health promotion conference. Dr Margaret Chan. Director-General of the World Health Organization. Opening address at the 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion, Helsinki, Finland. 10 June 2013.31. Ministry of Primary Industries. Exports of infant formula to China. Fact sheet. Undated. http://www.foodsafety.govt.nz/elibrary/industry/infant-formula-factsheet-english.pdf. [Accessed 17/11/13].

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On a range of traditional wellbeing measures, such as export income, contribution to GDP and employment creation, the dairy industry underpins New Zealand's economy. In particular, infant formula is New Zealand's ‘export superstar'.Global baby food sales are seen as largely recession proof, with a wide range of groups and individuals benefitting from this trade. These include New Zealand's largest company, Fonterra, Chinese investors, former politicians, as well as Maori, both as dairy farmers and owners of new export enterprises.However, wellbeing is increasingly being viewed in a wider context. For example, in 2009, the Stiglitz report on economic performance and social progress argued that ‘[t]he time is ripe for our measurement system to shift emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people's well-being.'1 But what if New Zealand's dairy industry, and especially infant formula exports, are examined using a broader wellbeing lens?'Milk, especially cow's milk, is controversial. In recent years, New Zealand's dairy industry has been the subject of not only praise, but also concern and criticism. Disquiet centres on human, environmental and animal wellbeing.In 2007, Lincoln University scientist Keith Woodford's book Devil in the Milk was published.2 Woodford argued that consumption of A1 milk, the main milk type currently produced in New Zealand, contributes to increased incidence of heart disease and Type 1 diabetes. He advised that the New Zealand dairy industry should transfer to A2 milk production.Food allergies, including both gluten and lactose intolerance, are another influence on human wellbeing. While food intolerances are often subjectively determined, science has identified population groups with genetically-based lactose intolerance. This intolerance is thought to be due to long-term, natural selection processes.Historically, animal welfare groups have questioned various common dairying practices. In the past, these included cow tail docking, but other practices associated with milk production, such as killing male calves within a few days of birth, are also perceived as cruel. Although rare, there have also been some high profile prosecutions for neglect of dairy cows.3Then, in 2012, the New Zealand dairy industry's poor environmental record became the subject of international media attention based on the work of Massey University ecologist, Dr Mike Joy.4 Joy's research criticised New Zealand's dairy intensification, with the move towards higher herd numbers; more frequent milking; and greater use of fertilisers and supplementary feeds. In exposing the environmental costs of dairying to New Zealand, Joy was regarded by some as a traitor. The use of palm kernel expeller, a waste product from palm oil production, as supplementary feed has also been criticised. Detractors include Greenpeace, who have raised concerns about sustainability and environmental impact in palm oil producing countries.5 Others have questioned whether this trade will lead to biosecurity breaches.6In 2013, there were a range of high profile, dairying incidents in New Zealand. These included the detection of low levels of the nitrification inhibitor Dicyandiamide (DCD) in some New Zealand milk powder; the supposed contamination of some Fonterra whey protein used in infant formula manufacture with traces of the toxic bacteria clostridium botulinum (subsequently proved to be a false alarm); and Westland Milk's lactoferrin incident. 7-9 By claiming that New Zealand formula was ‘poisonous', Chinese infant formula manufacturers and media attempted to use these events to turn consumers away from international to domestically produced brands.7, 8A labour relations lens also highlights challenges within New Zealand's dairy industry. While acknowledging the industry's value to the New Zealand economy, researchers have questioned on-farm labour practices, particularly long working hours, low wages, as well as difficult, and sometimes dangerous, working conditions.10One result is that the industry has increasingly turned to the use of migrant workers, often with temporary work permits.11 These workers generally have more limited rights than New Zealand citizens and are potentially more vulnerable to abuse.A further challenge has been the national anxiety generated over the sale of large dairy farms to foreign owners, especially Chinese investors.12But is the New Zealand dairy industry also undermining global ‘best practice' infant feeding? And, if so, should New Zealand public health practitioners care?Infant formula exports to China: Big profits for New ZealandNew Zealand is one of the world's leading milk powder producers and exporters and infant formula is New Zealand's export superstar. In 2009, formula exports were worth NZ$753 million to the New Zealand economy, increasing from NZ$63 million in 1999.13Business commentators suggest formula export income may now be around $1 billion.14 One of the strongest global infant formula marketing trends is companies increasingly focusing their efforts on large, expanding offshore markets, particularly in East Asia.15This shift is attributed to East Asia's high birth numbers and positive economic prospects, as well as the fall in sales in traditional markets such as Europe and North America, given their birth rate declines and greater promotion and uptake of breastfeeding.After the USA, China was, in 2012, the second largest baby food and infant formula market (in the order of US$3–6 billion) in the world and projected to double in size by 2016.16Various factors are driving China's demand for imported breast milk substitutes. These include: urbanisation, an increase in maternal employment and higher disposable incomes. While more women enter the workplace, continuing to breastfeed after returning to work remains a challenge. Although China has provision for 98 days employer-insurance funded maternity leave, this is reportedly unavailable to many women in factories and precarious employment.17Other factors driving increased formula sales in China include: lack of women's education; shortage of health workers resulting in poor support and education about breastfeeding's benefits after childbirth; and, unethical infant formula marketing practices.18China's implementation of the World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (the WHO Code)—the main global framework for protecting breastfeeding and controlling the marketing of infant formula—is also reportedly weak.18 A Save the Children survey in China showed that 40% of mothers interviewed reported being contacted directly by formula companies; half of them had been contacted in hospitals and over one-third by phone.18The vast majority reported company representatives recommending their companies' products or giving them free samples. This supports China's Consumer Association's survey findings that over half of the country's mothers received information about alternatives to breastfeeding during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.19 Research in six Chinese cities also found that 16 of the 35 food stores surveyed promoted infant formula, e.g. through salespeople, posters and gifts.18Perhaps most importantly for New Zealand however, success in China's infant formula market is reliant on consumer demand for a ‘safe', premium product from perceived high-quality producers.These heightened infant food safety fears are a legacy of the 2008 melamine scandal, in which locally produced formula from China's biggest dairy processor Sanlu (43% owned by New Zealand's dairy giant Fonterra) was contaminated with melamine (a compound used in plastics production which makes milk appear to have a higher protein content). Six babies died and an estimated 50,000 more were hospitalised, with thousands more affected.20This disaster became the focus of international media attention largely due to the Chinese authorities' delay in public notification and full product recall, but also the several week delay in Fonterra reporting this to New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, who then alerted Chinese authorities.21Consequently, in China, safety and quality, generally associated with imported brands, override price in artificial infant milk purchase.15 Trading on its ‘clean, green' brand, some New Zealand product (costing approximately $20 a can in New Zealand) can sell in China for over $70 a can.Despite the current domination of China's marketplace by imported infant formula brands, there is some suggestion that Chinese consumers may eventually turn away from overseas brands due to: the tightening of marketing controls on foreign manufacturers operating in China; the development and upgrading of China's own dairy industry and formula safety standards; and, in mid 2013, the launch of a nationwide breastfeeding promotion campaign.22In the meantime, New Zealand continues to benefit from China's growing demand. In 2012, New Zealand was the second largest offshore provider of infant formula for the Chinese market (18% share), after Singapore (37% share), with Australia the third largest (15% share).23 This has been greatly facilitated by the 2008 New Zealand China Free Trade Agreement, which included a 5 to 6 year phase out of infant formula tariffs.Multimillion dollar formula processing plants are being developed in New Zealand to manufacture formula for China's rapidly expanding market. In 2011, a $100 million formula plant Synlait (51% Chinese owned) opened at Dunsandel, focussed on supplying China. Then, in April 2013, leading Chinese infant formula manufacturer Yashili International Holdings received approval to invest NZ$230 million in the construction of a formula processing plant south of Auckland. These developments have received high level political, business and sporting endorsement in New Zealand, with national sports teams' sponsorships and government ministers, including the Prime Minister, John Key, attending various openings.The potential adverse health effects of increased infant formula consumption have been largely overlooked or even positively portrayed in terms of health provision and food security, safety and quality. For instance, at Synlait Milk's opening, its CEO stated that “Growing world-wide demand for high-value formulated milk powders designed to improve families' normal diets and protect against health concerns drove the development.”24The public health implications of increased infant formula exports to ChinaInternational agencies, including UNICEF (2012) and Save the Children (2013), have expressed concern about sharply declining breastfeeding rates, including exclusive breastfeeding among infants younger than 6 months, in East Asia and China.25, 18This concern also centres on the marketing and lobbying tactics used by formula marketers. Obtaining accurate nationally representative breastfeeding rates in China is difficult, but UNICEF reports that between 2005–2009, 41% of Chinese children commenced breastfeeding, with only 28% exclusively breastfed at 6 months.26Lack of exclusive breastfeeding increases the risk of infant morbidity and mortality; a risk that is greatly increased where water and sanitation for preparing formula is poor and parents may be illiterate and unable to read preparation instructions.27 In 2012, UNICEF reported that good sanitation facilities were available, in 2008, to only 58% and 52% of China's urban and rural populations respectively.28In a survey showing decline in breastfeeding rates in central and western China, Guo29 et al note that promoting breastfeeding and other good child feeding practices may reduce not only infection-associated child mortality and morbidity in poor rural areas, but also the future incidence of various noncommunicable diseases.In June 2013, WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, noted that:\"Efforts to prevent noncommunicable diseases go against the business interests of powerful economic operators. In my view, this is one of the biggest challenges facing health promotion. As the new publication makes clear, it is not just Big Tobacco anymore. Public health must also contend with Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Alcohol. All of these industries fear regulation, and protect themselves by using the same tactics.Research has documented these tactics well. They include front groups, lobbies, promises of self-regulation, lawsuits, and industry-funded research that confuses the evidence and keeps the public in doubt. In the view of WHO, the formulation of health policies must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests... \"These [tactics] include arguments that place the responsibility for harm to health on individuals, and portray government actions as interference in personal liberties and free choice.” 30But what could countries such as New Zealand do to ensure its infant formula export trade meets best practice? In 1983, New Zealand signed the World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, 1981 (the WHO Code).This global health framework aims to protect breastfeeding and restrict how companies can market infant formula. New Zealand implements the WHO Code under three voluntary and self-regulatory codes as well as the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. New Zealand's voluntary industry agreement applies within New Zealand to infant formula manufacture and importing, including restricting the marketing of infant formula for infants under 6 months.As of mid-2013, industry standards for infant formula manufacture and marketing within New Zealand are stronger than those governing our exports. Export standards (under consideration) include some exemptions on formula composition and a blanket exemption on labelling, requiring only that these meet importing countries' requirements. Some New Zealand exporters targeting East Asian markets are promoting formula for babies.In response to calls from within our dairy sector for ‘alignment' of New Zealand's infant formula standards, various changes have been made but concerns are solely trade related. They include the branding and marketing as ‘NZ-made' formula produced in China by domestic companies, thus illegally trading on New Zealand's ‘clean, green' image. Another key concern is piracy of New Zealand produced infant formula to China, bypassing export regulations and tariffs. As a reaction to these developments, late 2012 saw the formation of the New Zealand Infant Formula Exporters Association to represent and protect the interests of infant formula manufacturers, including developing an accreditation process for approved export brands. In June 2013, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) introduced a brand register for all infant formula produced in New Zealand intended for export to China.31Concerns about unregistered exporters not adhering to New Zealand controls and giving New Zealand products a bad name are very real. But given little consideration are the ethical and public health implications for New Zealand as a major infant formula producer and exporter.New Zealand promotes breastfeeding among its own population even though there are debates about the adequacy of national efforts. By contrast, along with certain other countries, New Zealand is potentially undermining breastfeeding practice in countries such as China where breastfeeding protection is weaker.ConclusionOn narrow economic measures of wellbeing New Zealand's dairy industry is a huge success. However, major challenges have been identified for broader wellbeing outcomes. New Zealand regulators and other stakeholders are endeavouring to improve outcomes in certain environmental and animal welfare areas, such as the Dairy and Clean Streams Accord.By contrast, little attention has been paid to whether aspects of the dairy trade undermine best practice infant feeding. Potential adverse health effects associated with the decline in breastfeeding in other nations are possibly perceived as irrelevant to New Zealand. Some may also have been ‘cowed into silence', fearing that to question New Zealand's infant formula export bonanza, especially to China, may be perceived as economic treason.As in fully industrialised countries, balancing good child health outcomes (including breastfeeding), maternal employment and gender equity will be complex in China. While New Zealand could show ethical leadership with regard to the marketing of infant formula exports, much of the solution lies with China. Improved maternity leave systems and WHO Code enforcement is required, along with implementation of WHO and UNICEF's Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.More discussion is also needed on these issues in New Zealand. In contrast to infant formula exporters' profits and university researchers' grants to improve infant formula composition to better ‘emulate' human breastmilk, no one stands to profit from breastfeeding protection. Whereas various constituent groups, including environmentalists, trade advocates and animal welfare groups, have an interest in better dairying practices, only public health proponents are specifically concerned with improving infant and maternal health.It is therefore important that the health and medical community (paediatricians, nutritionists, midwives, child health advocates, and communicable and non-communicable disease experts) pays more attention to the potential and actual impact of dairy industry practices and regulations on infant and child wellbeing so that, on all measures New Zealand's dairy industry is successful.Note: Statements or opinions expressed in the Journal reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect official policy of the New Zealand Medical Association unless stated as such.\r\n

Summary

Abstract

On narrow economic measures of wellbeing, New Zealands dairy industry is a huge success. Infant formula, in particular, is New Zealands export superstar. However, using a broader wellbeing lens, there is some public disquiet about environmental, human and animal wellbeing associated with the dairy industry. -This article questions whether New Zealands dairy industry is also undermining global best practice infant feeding. It argues that while there is support for increased trade and exports, there are few voices promoting global infant health and that discussion is needed on this issue by the New Zealand public health community.

Aim

Method

Results

Conclusion

Author Information

Judith A Galtry, Australian Centre for Economic Research on Health, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Acknowledgements

Correspondence

Dr Judith Galtry, Australian Centre for Economic Research on Health, Australian National University, cnr Mills & Eggleston Roads, Canberra 2600, Australia.

Correspondence Email

jgaltry@actrix.co.nz

Competing Interests

Ni.

1. Stiglitz JE., Sen A, Fitoussi JP. Report of the Commission on the measurement of economic performance et social progress, CMEPSP, September, 14, 2009, p. 12. http://www.stiglitz-sen-fitoussi.fr/documents/rapport_anglais.pdf [Accessed 29/4/13]. 2. Woodford K. Devil in the Milk: Illness, health, and the politics of A1 and A2 milk. Nelson: Craig Potton Publishing; 2007. 3. MilkPride pleads guilty to animal cruelty. Stuff online 9/5/13 http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/dairy/8652847/MilkPride-pleads-guilty-to-animal-cruelty [Accessed 12/5/13]. 4. Anderson, C. New Zealands green tourism push clashes with realities. New York Times, 16/11/12. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/business/global/new-zealands-green-tourism-push-clashes-with-realities.html [Accessed 5/4/13]. 5. Greenpeace. Fonterras intensification model drives palm-based animal feed demand http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/PageFiles/111846/fonterra-connection.pdf undated [Accessed 12/4/13]. 6. Alarm at biosecurity risk of palm kernel feed. Stuff online 7/5/13. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/agribusiness/8640322/Alarm-at-biosecurity-risk-of-palm-kernel-feed [Accessed 15/6/13]. 7. Hickey, B. NZ milk formula exporter says industry in crisis mode after DCD scare prompts Chinese claims that NZ milk is 'toxic' and 'poisonous'. Rural News 4/2/13. http://www.interest.co.nz/rural-news/62994/nz-milk-formula-exporter-says-industry-crisis-mode-after-dcd-scare-prompts-chinese- [Accessed 12/5/13].8. Fox, A. Fonterra botulism scare shatters faith in New Zealand. Stuff.co.nz 10/8/13. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/dairy/9025054/Faith-in-New-Zealand-shattered [Accessed 22/8/13].9. Fox A. Cronshaw T, Piddock G, Small V. Westland Milk exports contaminated. The Press 19/8/13. http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/9060016/Westland-Milk-exports-contaminated [Accessed 22/8/13]. 10. Callister P, Tipples, RS. Essential workers in the dairy industry. Institute of Policy Studies Working Paper 10/08, pp.19. Victoria University of Wellington, June 2010. 11. Tipples RS, Rawlinson P, Greenhalgh J. Vulnerability in New Zealand dairy farming: the case of Filipino migrants. New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations, 2013; 37. 12. Adams, C. Crafar dairy farms deal finally settled. New Zealand Herald, 1/12/12. www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10851202 [Accessed 12/5/13]. 13. Coriolis Research Consulting Strategy. Moving to the centre: the future of the New Zealand food industry. Final Report to the Ministry of Economic Development. October 2010. http://www.med.govt.nz/sectors-industries/food-beverage/pdf-docs-library/coriolis-report-pdf [Accessed 1/2/12]. 14. Dann L. Baby milk hotter than heroin in Hong Kong. New Zealand Herald, 29/4/13. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10880288 [Accessed 12/5/13]. 15. Euromonitor International. Safety First: Global baby food opportunities and challenges to 2015. London: Euromonitor International; 2011. 16. AM Mindpower Solutions. China baby food and infant formula market research report outlook to 2016. 1/5/12. http://www.marketresearch.com/AM-Mindpower-Solutions-v3771/China-Baby-Food-Infant-Formula-6984285/ [Accessed 12/1/13]. 17. Khan N. Longer maternity leave in China signals more womens rights. Bloomberg 22/11/11. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-22/longer-maternity-leave-in-china-signals-more-women-s-rights-1-.html [Accessed 12/6/13]. 18. Save the Children. Superfood for babies: How overcoming barriers to breastfeeding will save childrens lives; London: Save the Children; 2013. 19. China's declining breastfeeding rates blamed on inappropriate marketing. WantChinaTimes, 4/3/13. http://www.wantchinatimes.com [Accessed 17/3/13]. 20. World Health Organization. Expert meeting to review toxicological aspects of melamine and cyanuric acid, 1-4 December 2008. 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