Deakin University

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Formula milk companies and allergy healthcare professionals in India

journal contribution
posted on 2023-07-17, 05:34 authored by H Allen, A Gupta, A Mundell, N Gupta, A Thakur, S Nagarajan, D Munblit, Phillip Baker, R Boyle
India is a low-middle income country with a population of 1.4 billion and home to one quarter of the world's children. Exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months and continued breastfeeding until at least 2 years as per global recommendations are common practice. The Indian government and associated organisations have strived to protect breastfeeding, which is important in a country with high under-5 mortality, malnutrition and stunting. Allergic disease is under-recognised in India, but despite the absence of a dedicated allergy medical specialty, awareness of allergy is increasing among healthcare practitioners and in the general population. In high-income countries, overdiagnosis of allergy has become recognised as an issue in recent years. Allergy healthcare professionals have also attracted criticism for close relationships with the formula industry, which appear to have contributed to excessive use of specialised formula products and undermining of breastfeeding. Specialised formula has been used unnecessarily for preventing allergy, based on fraudulent and selectively reported science; and for managing normal infant symptoms which are mislabelled as milk allergy. This forms part of a broader formula industry corporate strategy to widen the boundaries of illness in order to expand sales and markets. In India, allergic disease management is hindered by limited understanding of the disease entity among practitioners, low access to diagnostics, limited healthcare resources, high exposure to air pollution and a large, diverse population. Data specific to India on allergic disease prevalence and interpreting allergy diagnostics are incomplete. The knowledge gaps mean allergy management in India is often extrapolated from guidance developed in high-income countries with low breastfeeding rates. As the allergy specialty develops in India, local guidance and practice will need to recognise the threat that current allergy practice poses to India's normative infant feeding culture, and ensure that breastfeeding continues to be supported at all levels.



Clinical and Experimental Allergy