Midwife refuses award in protest at sponsors


An independent midwife turned down a “midwife of the year” award yesterday because it was sponsored by a formula milk company.

Philomena Canning said Pfizer/Wyeth, the company behind the well-known SMA brand, was trying to use the good name of health workers to promote its products.

Ms Canning and a group of breastfeeding advocates protested outside the Shelbourne Hotel yesterday where the SMA Know How Maternity and Infant Awards took place.

Danone, the manufacturer of Aptamil and Cow Gate brands, was also involved in the sponsorship.

An online petition organised by the UK-based Baby Milk Action was handed in to the organisers of the awards.

Ms Canning, a homebirth midwife, maintained SMA’s sponsorship of the awards was in breach of the international code of marketing of breast-milk substitutes adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to protect infant health.

She said SMA’s sponsorship of the awards was an attempt to circumvent the restrictions on marketing and advertising of formula milk.

She added: “Pfizer/Wyeth and Danone are attempting to use the good reputation of health workers by handing them awards while using this as an advertising opportunity.”

Pfizer Nutrition said it “unequivocally supports” the WHO code. The company said the WHO recognised there was a “legitimate market” for infant formula and it allowed for “the proper use of breast-milk substitutes when these are necessary, on the basis of adequate information through appropriate marketing and distribution.”

Ashville Media, which publishes Maternity and Infant magazine, also defended the sponsorship by SMA. It said SMA had been a loyal sponsor of the awards for five years and had never put any restrictions on the awards.