As many of you will remember I recently did a number of product reviews for Lansinoh. In the middle of it I found out that Lansinoh is owned by Pigeon, a maker of baby products, including bottles and nipples, who has been found guilty of breaking the WHO Code.
Since Lansinoh is a company that specifially designs products for breastfeeding mothers and breastfed babies, I felt that there was a conflict of interest, and I wanted my readers to be able to make informed choices regarding the purchase of Lansinoh products. I wrote a piece called Lansinoh and Their WHO Code Violating Pigeon that included many links for readers to come to their own conclusions about their feelings about Lansinoh being owned by this corporation.
On August 3, 2009 Gina Ciagne, the director for breastfeeding and consumer relations for Lansinoh and a certified lactation counselor, posted a response to ongoing concerns about Lansinoh’s WHO Code status on Lansinoh’s blog By Moms For Moms (click the blog link to read it). Gina says,
You may have heard differing stories about whether Lansinoh complies with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes (also known as the “WHO Code”), which was developed by the World Health Organization to set guidelines for the marketing of infant feeding products and products that have the potential to undermine breastfeeding. Lansinoh neither manufactures nor markets any of the four product-types that are covered by the WHO Code and has always been a strong proponent and supporter of the Code.
Because the WHO Code examines the marketing of the four product types and Lansinoh is in compliance of this, Lansinoh is in compliance of the WHO Code. Furthermore, she makes the point that ownership of companies is not something that the WHO Code examines. Because of this fact, in August 2009 at their annual conference, the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) agreed that Lansinoh could exhibit at their conference, thus taking the position that Lansinoh is not a WHO Code violator.
However, despite the fact that Lansinoh by itself does not violate the Code, some people may still have concerns that Lansinoh permitted itself to be owned by one of the world’s worst WHO Code violators in the first place. While ownership of companies isn’t a requirement to comply with the Code, perhaps it should be. Because I am still having a hard time feeling good about this.
Perhaps we should focus on the fact that when we buy a Lansinoh product, Pigeon gains from the sale.
Also, Gina makes the statement in her response that Pigeon owns the “majority” of Lansinoh shares, even though Pigeon’s 2004 annual report (see page 4) describes Lansinoh as a “wholly owned subsidary.” If Pigeon now only owns the majority of shares, who owns the minority? This might appear to be a trite piece of information, but saying Pigeon is a majority shareholder is misleading if they actually own and thus control the entire company. Which means a giant like Pigeon isn’t going to easily be swayed by Lansinoh’s attempt “[to do] everything we can to try to influence those who are not in accordance.”
What do you think? Do you have any ongoing concerns or are you satisfied with Lansinoh’s response?