Speaking in the Seanad yesterday Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly sought clarity from Minister Donnelly on the recent appointment to Safefood Ireland of an executive from an infant formula manufacturing company.
O’Reilly raised her concern stating that “this is concerning because we have unprecedented commitments in our programme for Government around breastfeeding and maternal health. We have had a recent announcement of funding for lactation consultants across the country. We cannot give with one hand and take with the other”.
O’Reilly thanked the “twenty-four GPs who wrote about their concern around the recent appointment and highlighted a 2020 report in The Lancet medical journal found “that large manufacturers of breast milk substitutes have inappropriately positioned themselves as sources of public health expertise”.
O’Reilly stressed “we need to be careful and I want to hear from the Minister as to why the appointment was made and what process was followed”.
O’Reilly continued “we have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. The WHO has said breastfeeding is the most appropriate thing a state can put its money behind to promote health. However, 64% of women initiate breastfeeding when they enter hospital and only 37% leave hospital breastfeeding, a matter of days later.
We have to examine why that is. Let us put money into lactation consultants to support women but let us also make sure we are appointing the correct people in the correct way to our health-promotion organisations. I would welcome a debate solely around breastfeeding or as part of a debate around maternal healthcare, she said, having also raised the issue of partners accessing maternity units in Galway on numerous occasions.