By King & Wood Mallesons’ Compliance Group
On September 16th，CCTV reported that in order to achieve long-term profits, many milk companies had bribed doctors and nurses. This was done without the knowledge of parents so that hospitals would feed newborn babies with the companies’ milk powder to make the babies dependent on it. On September 17, in order to solve this problem, the National Health and Family Planning Commission circulated a notice forbidding medical institutions and their staff from marketing and promoting breast-milk substitutes. The notice states that the “Mothers and Infants Health Law of the People’s Republic of China” and its implementing regulations, “Rules on the Marketing of Breast-milk Substitute,” should be implemented strictly. To the extent that medical institutions and their staff market or promote breast-milk substitutes, they will be sternly punished according to the law.
According to the Notice, medical institutions are prohibited from receiving gifts, sponsorships, kickbacks, or benefits from producers and sellers of breast-milk substitutes. The Notice prohibits various forms of marketing, promotion, advertising, and other materials in medical institutions by the producers and sellers. The producers and sellers may not display breast-milk substitutes in medical institutions. The Notice also prohibits medical institutions and staff from marketing breast milk substitutes to pregnant women or their families. Meanwhile, the Notice encourages and promotes breastfeeding and the concept of “early contact, early milking, and early feeding”. It encourages mothers who are capable of breastfeeding to make breast-milk available to their children at the earliest possible time.
The Notice states that medical institutions and their staff who violate the provisions will be strictly punished according to the Temporary Regulations for Violations of Medical Staff Discipline and The Code for Medical Practitioners. In serious cases, the class of the healthcare organizations will be reduced and the organization will be held responsible. Medical institutions and their staff who have committed commercial bribery will be punished according to The Supreme Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate’s Opinion on the Issues Regarding the Application of Laws against Commercial Bribery in Criminal Cases and other relevant laws and regulations.
The Notice emphasizes the need to strengthen public awareness. It requires health and maternity departments to make available and publicize channels through which the public can report on suspected violations of the law. It encourages the general public to file complaints against the illegal promotion and marketing of breast-milk substitutes so as to punish these illegal activities.