To address the issue of infant and young child feeding, in May 1981 the World Health Organization introduced the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes (WHO Code).The WHO Code is a model set of recommendations aimed to protect and promote breastfeeding. It does this by ensuring the proper use of breast-milk substitutes, when necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution. The WHO Code is intended to be adapted by member countries to their own social, legal and economic situations.

In 1992, the Marketing in Australia of Infant Formulas: Manufacturers and Importers Agreement (MAIF Agreement) was established as Australia’s response to the WHO Code. As a self-regulated, industry code of conduct, the MAIF Agreement restricts the marketing of infant formulas to the public by manufacturers and importers.

Compliance with the MAIF Agreement is overseen by the Advisory Panel on the Marketing in Australia of Infant Formula (APMAIF). The APMAIF is an independent panel whose members are appointed by the Parliamentary Secretary and funded by DoHA.

Since establishment of the MAIF Agreement in 1992, few changes have occurred to the MAIF Agreement, or to the governance arrangements and administrative practices of the APMAIF. Several reviews have been conducted on the effectiveness of the MAIF Agreement:

  • In 2003, Robert Knowles completed an independent review of the composition and operations of the APMAIF and the scope of the MAIF Agreement (Knowles 2003). A number of the recommendations of this review were adopted, including expansion of APMAIF membership from three to five members and measures to improve the efficiency of APMAIF administrative and complaints handling processes.
  • In August 2007, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing published the ‘Best Start’ report on the inquiry into the health benefits of breastfeeding (Parliament of Australia 2007). The report was critical of the limited scope of the MAIF Agreement and the timeliness of APMAIF processes.
  • In 2009, the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference endorsed the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015 (AHMC 2009) and made a commitment to revisit Australia’s implementation of the WHO Code. This Review is a key element of that process.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) provided initial authorisation of the MAIF Agreement in 1992 and re-authorisation was granted in 2007, giving signatories immunity from prosecution under the former Trade Practices Act 1974 (since replaced by the Competition and Consumer Act 2010) for potentially anti-competitive behaviour resulting from the terms of the MAIF Agreement. Authorisation expires in 2015 and it is expected that the content and operation of the MAIF Agreement will have to be reviewed prior to application for re authorisation.

The timeline of the development of the MAIF Agreement and other associated processes are shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Timeline of the development of the MAIF Agreement and other associated processes

Figure 1: Timeline of the development of the MAIF Agreement and other associated processes. For detailed description of the image please refer to the descriptive link next to the image. Description of the Image