By Warren Elijah E. Valdez
DAVAO CITY — The National Nutrition Council (NNC)-XI has reiterated its call for those groups and individuals who intend to donate relief assistance to the communities in the region amid the COVID-19 crisis, not to include milk in their food packs distribution.
On May 20, over the Philippine Information Agency’s (PIA) One Davao on COVID-19 virtual presser, NNC-XI program coordinator Maria Teresa Ungson said that soliciting or donating of infant formulas is against Executive Order No. 51 or the Milk Code of the Philippines.
Under this law, donations of breastmilk substitutes including infant formula such as powdered milk, other milk products, foods, beverages, feeding bottles, and teats are not allowed.
Ungson said these should not be part of the general distribution of emergency food packs, particularly during this health emergency brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Because we have infants at home, there is a tendency that these milks could be given (fed) to the infants. Now, that is against Executive Order 51 or our Milk Code of the Philippines. So there is a law. And we have to protect the rights of the child,” she said.
“People have good intentions. But I hope that they do not include milk in their food packs because it is against the law,” Ungson added, stressing that a mother’s breast milk “would be the best, actually.”
Department of Health (DOH) Administrative Order (AO) 2006-0014 or the “National Policies on Infant and Young Children” indicates that in times of crisis, breastfeeding is the first and best feeding option for infants and young children.
Ungsod also pointed out that they have already called the attention some groups, which she did not name, that distributed relief items that included infant formula.
“We discourage that. And some groups have already stopped [after] we called their attention,” she said.
Ungson has appealed to those groups to understand that they (NNC) “[didn’t] mean anything bad” for calling them out.
“[We] just have to enforce the law… I hope that soliciting and asking from other groups for milk to be given to families should not be done,” she said
It’s a point repeated in DOH’s Administrative Order 2007-0017 or the “Guidelines on the Acceptance and Processing of Foreign and Local Donations during Emergency and Disaster Situations, which states that “infant formula, breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles, artificial nipples, and teats shall not be items for donation. No acceptance of donation shall be issued for any of the enumerated items.”