Infant formula manufacturers have a duty to their shareholders to maximise sales of their products, which by definition means minimising exposure of infants to breast milk. Hence while publicly stating their commitment to breast feeding, as required by law, IFMCs are, in fact profiting from the failure of breast feeding. With growing knowledge of the hazards of infant formula, manufacturers need to seek ever more sophisticated ways of promoting their products as scientific and safe. Any link with paediatricians or other health professional is thus likely to enhance their products' credibility and sales. IFMCs are therefore happy to provide funds from their advertising budgets to achieve this. There are three main ways by which IFMCs forge these links with paediatricians: through educational activities, support of a department or organisation, and funding of research.
Sponsorship of an educational event promotes a company and its products at a number of levels. The firm's name is linked to that of the institution on widely distributed publicity, those attending the course receive material such as pens bearing the firm's logo, and all involved will then tend to have subtly enhanced respect for that company and their products. When companies fund clinical activity or support health related organisations, this also conveys an impression of the company as being “health giving” even if their products may cause net harm to children's health.
Research into formula milks, although ostensibly necessary, in fact serves an important role in promoting the use of infant formula, as the results are then used to enhance the impression of their “equivalence” to breast feeding, once compounds present in breast milk, such as “pre‐biotics”, are added. Every supposed enhancement of an infant formula, which EU law only requires be tested in trials of equivalence to other formulas, can then be advertised as making the formula “even closer to breast milk” even though there is no evidence that any such enhancements have actually increased the safety of formula. Paediatricians also tend to attach great significance to the role of IFMCs in developing specialist formulas, which may be useful for a tiny number of infants, without necessarily recognising that far more infants suffer because they were deprived of the protective benefits of breast milk by the use of that company's products.