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Stronger regulation of infant foods to protect Cambodian children’s health gets WHO support

Nutrilatt milk powder products are sold at a mini market in the capital. KT/Som Kanika

The World Health Organization (WHO), along with two international organizations on Monday commended Cambodia for taking actions in regulating Breast Milk Substitutes (BMS) and responding to parents’ complaints promptly.

“We greatly appreciate the government’s swift action to suspend the sale of BMS products from companies failing to meet international standards to protect the health and well-being of children and their mothers,” said a joint statement released by the WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Helen Keller International (HKI).

The statement was signed by Li Ailan, representative of WHO-Cambodia, Foroogh Foyouzat, representative of UNICEF-Cambodia, and Gwyneth Cotes, country director of HKI-Cambodia.

“We are also concerned by the results of the recent investigation of infant formula milk powder produced by Nutrilatt,” it said.

The result of the independent laboratory tests revealed inadequate levels of iron and zinc in the company’s infant formula milk powder, the statement said, adding that this is a reminder of the crucial importance of robust regulation of BMS products.

The statement said micronutrients like iron and zinc are critical for the health and development of children, and insufficient levels in children can lead to lifelong impaired physical and cognitive growth.

“We request the government to arrange for affected children and their families to receive appropriate care and support,” it said.

Breast feeding is encouraged and is in fact a must for up to six months at the least. KT/Sok Nalik

 The statement said global evidence shows that exclusive breastfeeding remains the best way to feed infants. Where BMS products are used, they need to be rigorously regulated according to the international standards and Cambodian law.

“Failure to do so, along with their inappropriate use, puts children’s lives at risk,” it said. “Ensuring children have access to safe, affordable, appropriate, nutritious products that are adequately regulated by the government is crucial to protect their well-being.”

Until they reach six months, babies should only receive breast milk to ensure all the nutrients they need to grow well and be healthy, the statement said, adding that from the age of six months, children should begin eating safe and adequate complementary foods alongside continued breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond. Xinhua

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