The low rates of exclusive breastfeeding practice among Indian mothers resulted in the infant formula companies introducing food and milk substitutes for infants and children.
The food and milk substitutes need to be made by upholding the health standards. So, the manufacturing of these food and milk substitutes must be operational by keeping the health concerns in mind and leaving no loopholes for the infant formula companies; thus, the government of India enacted the IMS Act in 1992.
An international code for marketing breast milk substitutes was adopted in 1981 by the World Health Assembly, and the government of India brought the Indian National Code for breastfeeding protection in 1983 to give effect to the 1981 code.
On the path to achieving the Indian National code’s aims and objectives, India’s government brought the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods (IMS) Act.
IMS Act was enacted to regulate the production, supply, and distribution of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles, and infant foods concerning the protection and promotion of breastfeeding and ensuring the proper use of infant foods and for matters incidental to the same.
IMS Act ensures that the infants should be provided with the utmost nutritional value like a mother’s breastfeeding, thus decreasing the infant mortality rate.
The objective of the IMS Act
The IMS Act was enacted with particular objectives to achieve the required goal. These objectives are:-
- To ensure preserving and encouraging the breastfeeding
- To Prohibit the promotion of foods undertaken by children up to two years of age
- To prohibit sponsorship to healthcare professionals and healthcare organisations by infant formula companies
- To educate and aware pregnant and lactating mothers concerning the significance of breastfeeding and the IMS act
- To regulate and control the use of infant milk substitutes and infant foods
- To regulate the marketing activities of infant formula companies
- To prescribe roles and responsibilities of healthcare organisations and healthcare professionals
- Ensuring appropriate use of breast milk substitutes
Mandatory requirements for substitute products packaging
There are some requirements which need to be followed while packaging the products. Let’s discuss:-
The product label must contain a clear, readable statement, “IMPORTANT NOTICE: Mother’s milk is best for your baby”.
The labelling is done to make awareness of the importance of breastfeeding for a child’s nourishment and growth. It also portrays those formula products are not the sole source of nutrition for infants, and breastfeeding is more nutritious than that and must be avoided to avoid malnourishment in children.
The formula products prepared for infants should be safe and tested and have clean preparation and composition.
The products manufactured by infant formula companies must not contain pictures of women and infants on their labels.
The advertisements and promotions of formula products are prohibited; if done, they must include the benefits of breastfeeding.
The products should contain information about the health hazards of improper preparation and the use of formula products.
Historical background of IMS act
The Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods (IMS) Act was enacted in 1992 to regulate the manufacturing, supply and distribution of infant milk and food substitutes, feeding bottles, etc. The Act came into force on August 1st, 1993.
To avoid any loopholes and discrepancies in the act’s enforcement, the Department of Women & Child Development established a National task force to suggest amendments to the Act for its effective implementation.
The suggested amendments were presented to the parliament as a bill in March 2002. The Parliament passed this bill in June 2003.
The passed bill came with the introduction of the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods (Regulation of production, supply and distribution) Amendment Act 2003, which came into force on 1st January 2004.
Need for IMS Act
The IMS Act satisfies the particular purposes:-
- Foundation for filling the child’s rights
- Provision of ideal nutrition as per baby’s age and species of activity
- Safeguard against infection, allergies & asthma
- Promotion of physical, psychosocial, and mental growth and development
- Enhancement of visual and cognitive development
- Preparing infants for better learning
- Lowering of under 5 mortality
- Reduction of death of on low birth weight babies
Provisions of the Act
The IMS Act extends to all of India, and some of its important provisions are that no person shall:
- Advertise on the distribution, sale, or supply of infant milk bottles or infant foods
- Give the impression that infant milk substitutes and infant foods are equal to or better than breast milk
- Promote infant milk substitutes, baby bottles, and infant foods
- Provide or distribute gift samples of infant foods, baby bottles, or tools and other items of infant milk and food substitutes
- Contact the pregnant woman or the baby’s mother to provide an incentive to do any of the above.
The key provision of the IMS Act
Sections 3-10 of the act prohibit the promotion and advertising of substitute food and milk products for infants in any form (i.e. Directly or indirectly).
Section 5 of the act referred to restricting any smart practice by the infant formula companies to restrict the promotion of its products through donations.
Section 6 provides the requirement for a form of content on labels of the substitute food and milk products.
Section 7 contains the same requirements concerning educational and other informative materials relating to feeding infants.
Section 11 states that the substitute food and milk products should adhere to the requirements mentioned under the prevention of food adulteration Act, 1954.
The products not adhering to such requirements of the above-mentioned act of 1954 are liable to be confiscated under section 14 of the IMS Act. The confiscation act is exercised after serving the product manufacturer with a notice stating the reasons for confiscation under section 18 of the Act.
IMS Act bans
The IMS Act bans the undertaking of the following activities:-
- It prohibits the advertisement of substitute food and milk products in the market to be used for infants.
- The Act also prohibits gifting and providing free samples of the food and milk substitute products, keeping infants’ health and safety in mind. This prohibition will keep a check on testing the substitute food products on infants through gifting and other malpractices.
- It also prohibits donating products, educational material or equipment in the market to advertise their food and milk substitute products.
- The IMS Act prohibits infant formula companies from publishing pictures of babies or mothers on their products’ labels.
- It also strictly prohibits spreading misinformation through the distribution of educational material or advertisements in the market.
- The Act includes a provision restricting infant formula companies from providing sponsorships and making payments to health care workers and professionals and their organisations.
- It also consisted of restrictions on the act of providing commission or incentives to the company staff to increase sales of the product to avoid any form of malpractices in the market.
Penalties for violation of the IMS Act
The IMS Act provided some provisions for the Act’s effective enforcement, and it also provided for the penalties in the instance of violation of these provisions. The penalty for violation is provided under section 20 of the Act.
Section 20 states that if a person violates the provisions under the IMs Act, then:-
- He will be liable to be imprisoned for a minimum of six months, extending up to three years or,
- With fine for a minimum amount of Rs 2000/- extending up to a maximum of Rs 5000/-.
Though breastfeeding has its advantages, promoting formula products for infants is easier than spreading awareness about the nutritious value of breastfeeding. The effect of breastfeeding is well recognised on the growth and development of a child, prospective and healthy future of the country with its anti-effective properties.
The act envisages not restricting the promotion of formula products by its companies, even though that medium it wants to promote exclusive breastfeeding in the country to rank up the country’s name in the global hunger index.
The IMS Act encourages growth and development, keeping the health concerns of infants and children in mind involving the administration of substitute formula products.
Where can we report the violations committed under IMS Act?
The violations committed under IMS Act can be reported to these authorities:
- Breastfeeding promotion network of India(BPNI)
- Association of Consumer Action on Safety and Health (ACASH)
- Indian Council for Child Welfare(ICCW)
- Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB)
Which part of the IMS Act contains a provision regarding filing an appeal to a higher court against the confiscation or other acts of authorities?
Are the offences committed under this Act cognisable or non-cognizable, bailable or non-bailable?
The offences committed under this Act are cognisable and bailable.
When did the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods (Regulation of production, supply and distribution) Rules, 1993 come into force?
1st August 1993.