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Branded Baby Formula Staying in Maternity Wards

Companies' hope to get infants, and parents, hooked on their brand early.

It seems baby formula manufacturers will be allowed to continue placing branded products in maternity wards, despite one legislator's attempt to ban the practice.

The formula makers will also apparently continue to pay hospitals millions of shekels a year for the privilege of exclusive access to the maternity wards, where they can give new mothers free samples of their products.

The companies' hope to get infants, and parents, hooked on their brand early. Given parental reluctance to change brands, the manufacturers have little incentive to keep prices down.

Next week the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee will be discussing Danny Danon's legislative proposal to promote breast-feeding. Originally, he had proposed that formula given in hospitals not be branded. He also proposed that the hospitals stop issuing tenders for the formula manufacturers to provide their product to the hospital for free, in fact paying the hospitals millions of shekels a year for the right.

But neither the Health Ministry nor the hospitals appreciated either aspect of Danon's bill.

Danon said on Tuesday that the substance of his bill isn't changing. "The Health Ministry had comments about the bill, as did I," he said on Tuesday. "The ministry claims that it's important for the mother to know what food she is giving her child. I don't object to the name appearing in small letters. The substance of the bill is to stop the exclusivity of one company winning a tender."

Mothers who prefer to use formula should be able to choose from a selection, Danon said, not be forced to use the formula provided by a company that won a tender.