DOI: 10.1111/mcn.13588 ISSN: 1740-8695

Overpromoted and underregulated: National binding legal measures related to commercially produced complementary foods in seven Southeast Asian countries are not fully aligned with available guidance

Jessica Blankenship, Tuan Nguyen, Jessica M. White, Jane Badham, Paul Zambrano, Duong Vu, Ha‐Anh Nguyen, Jennifer Cashin, Roland Kupka
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology and Child Health


The market for commercially produced complementary foods (CPCF) is rapidly expanding in Southeast Asia; however, the existence and content of mandatory national policies, standards and legislation (binding legal measures) for CPCF in the region is unclear. To assess the status of national binding legal measures for CPCF in Southeast Asia, a legal and policy desk review was conducted in seven countries (Cambodia, Laos People's Democratic Republic, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam). The alignment of the national binding legal measures relevant to CPCF was assessed against guidance on CPCF nutrient composition and labelling requirements provided by Codex Alimentarius and the World Health Organization (WHO). Each of the seven countries had at least two national binding legal measures related to the nutrient composition or labelling of CPCF; however, there was limited alignment with the guidance from Codex and WHO. No country was fully aligned with the three CPCF‐specific Codex standards/guidelines and only one country was in full alignment with the recommendations related to the protection of breastfeeding from the ‘WHO Guidance on ending the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children’. The findings of the review indicate that the existing national binding legal measures are insufficient to ensure that the CPCF sold as suitable for older infants and young children are nutritionally adequate and labelled in a responsible manner that does not mislead caregivers. Improved and enforced national binding legal measures for CPCF, in alignment with global guidance, are required to ensure that countries protect, promote and support optimal nutrition for children 6–36 months of age.

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