The Atlantic

The Epic Battle Between Breast Milk and Infant-Formula Companies

When Trump administration officials opposed a WHO breast-feeding resolution, they followed a long history of policymakers listening to baby-formula manufacturers.
Source: Thanasis Zovoilis / Getty

It was an issue over which a strong show of American exceptionalism wasn’t exactly expected: breast milk.

According to a recent report from The New York Times’ Andrew Jacobs, American officials at the World Health Assembly in Geneva this spring wanted to modify a breastfeeding resolution, and they went to the mat to do it, threatening other countries unless they promised to drop it.

The American delegates wanted to ditch language in the nonbinding resolution that called on governments to “protect, promote, and support breastfeeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of unhealthy food products. When that didn’t work, they threatened Ecuador, the country that intended to introduce the breastfeeding measure, with punitive trade and aid measures. Ultimately, it was Russia that agreed to introduce the breastfeeding resolution, and the U.S.’s efforts were “largely unsuccessful,” the Times reported.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which led the negotiation on the resolution, denied that trade sanctions were part of the discussion about the resolution. “Recent reporting attempts to portray the U.S. position at the recent World Health Assembly

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