Sunday, 24 February 2013

Cold Comfort from Danone

Save the Children's campaign to improve exclusive breastfeeding rates Is now last week's news.  After the hue and cry over how this campaign will guilt mothers in the UK and the rest of the English speaking (first world) world, this  week, it is quietly leaking out in the press that Aptamil Comfort and Cow and Gate Comfort are unavailable in the UK.  It has been hard to find for a few weeks now with parents on message boards and Facebook groups asking if other mothers know of shops or chemists still in supply.

Danone, the owner of the Aptamil and Cow and Gate brands, has shared with the press that it is a shortage of maize starch, used as a thickener in their Comfort brands, that has caused the problem.

With Danone saying that these brands won't be available again  till mid March, neither option is viable.  Danone is referring parents to its 'Careline' but other that apologies, they don't seem able to assist in any way. The NCT has been trying to coordinate mothers with some of these milks to give to other mums while some parents have resorted to bidding for formula on eBay to feed their babies.

This first world problem shows how quickly first world parents can find that they cannot feed their babies adequately if a problem develops in the supply chain.   A tin of formula doesn't last most babies a week and bidding on eBay is not sustainable.  The more links there are in the supply and distribution chain the more vulnerable a food source becomes.  I guess I don't have to say 'beef' to anyone now.

With climate change in little doubt this temporary supply difficulty is a warning shot that things can become a lot worse for all babies if their food source is not protected.  Last year's drought in the USA will undoubtedly continue to push up the price of cattle feed which will have a knock on effect on the price of formula. Before the next ingredient shortage strikes some parents are finding that they are already cutting back on other things to pay for formula which has nearly doubled in price since 2005.

Surely it is time to support mothers in the UK and elsewhere with more effective support in the feeding choice from birth rather than increase the dissonance of 'making mothers guilty' and other useless platitudes.

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