THE MEDICAL COUNCIL has defended its board members from allegations that they may have had a conflict of interest when criticising the so-called Milk Code bill, which seeks to ban commercial promotion of food for infants and young children.
“Our board members have no vested interest in any business group,” the council said yesterday.
Its statement also said the board of the Medical Council agreed in principle about the bill and believed that breast milk was extremely important to infants.
“We support professional bodies in presenting easy-to-understand information to the public,” the statement said, “Academic comments either for or against the bill will be made during the deliberation by the National Legislative Assembly [NLA]”.
The bill’s content is based on the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. Proposed by the Public Health Ministry’s Health Department, the bill is already in the hands of the NLA.
Several critics and supporters of the proposed legislation have clashed over their differing stances on the issue.
Some doctors associated with the Medical Council and paediatric networks fear the bill may backfire because unhealthy food for infants and children up to three years of age may quickly replace powdered milk or infant formula.
But Dr Siriwat Tiptaradol, a former deputy permanent secretary for Public Health and the first president of the Thai Breastfeeding Centre Foundation, questioned these doctors’ motivation, asking whether they had received sponsorship for their academic conferences or overseas trips.
This prompted the Medical Council to issue a statement defending its board members.
“We only aim to provide educational information to people and other organisations, and recommendations to the government for the benefit of the medical and public health sectors,” the statement said.
Prof Dr Yong Poovorawan, who teaches at the Department of Paediatrics in Chulalongkorn University’s medical faculty, said on his Facebook page yesterday that if the promotion of healthy food for young children was banned, unhealthy food would fill the gap.
“It’s best to go for the middle path,” he said.
Yong recommended that the bill should control food products for infants aged up to one year only. Food for older children should be controlled by ministerial regulations instead, he suggested.
He said if relevant authorities wished to promote breastfeeding more, they should push for laws that allow mothers to take paid maternity leave for up to six months.