Phil Baker Alissa Pries Lucy Sullivan Jo Jewell Lesley Oot

Getting food systems right from the start: how they are failing young children and what we can do about it?

A Health talk by Dr Phil Baker , Jo Jewell , Lesley Oot , Alissa Pries and Lucy Sullivan

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About this Health talk

Health talk convened by The United Nations Children's Fund and the World Health Organization


Food flavours and preferences are shaped early in life with consequences for dietary patterns, food choices, culture and social norms later in life. There is growing concern that the promotion of breast-milk substitutes and some commercial foods for infant and young children undermines optimal infant and young child feeding, which results from our broken food systems. Yet, infant and young feeding practices are normally seen as a health practice and its protection is seen as a health systems intervention rather than a food systems intervention, thus often dismissed as too health-systems focused by agriculture groups.

Infant and young child feeding is often portrayed as individual behaviour, as a matter of free parental choice, and the responsibility of mothers and parents alone. In the contrast, as stated, feeding decisions are powerfully shaped by transformations underway in first-food systems associated with the globalization of the baby food industry and its marketing practices and the shift of labour and production out of the home, in the context of weak or absent maternity protection. Key actions relevant to healthy and sustainable food systems would be the prevention of unethical formula marketing, re-formulation of commercial complementary foods and formula to reduce unhealthy ingredients, and marketing restrictions for unhealthy commercial products consumed by infants and young children.


  • Setting the stage for overall intersections of the food systems framework and infant and young child feeding issues including:
  • Generation of demand for healthy infant and young child feeding (breastfeeding and healthy complementary foods).
  • Health impacts of ultra-processed foods (formula & commercial complementary foods with high sugar and/or sodium).
  • Environmental impacts of infant feeding choices. Marketing of commercial products (formula & commercial complementary foods). Globalization of markets and trade implications.


14:00 - 14:05 - Opening remarks by Grainne Moloney from UNICEF.

14:05 – 14:10 - Setting the stage by moderator Lucy Sullivan.

14:10 – 14:22 - Overview of how infant feeding is truly a “first food system” by Phillip Baker from Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia.

Three key aspects of the first food system that need fixing

14:23 – 14:35 - Marketing of breast-milk substitutes by Lesley Oot from Alive and Thrive.

14:36 – 14:48 - Sugar and salt content of commercial complementary foods by Jo Jewell from UNICEF.

14:49 – 15:01 - Consumption of “junk foods” by infants and young children by Alissa Pries from Helen Keller International.

15:01 – 15:25 - Q&A .

15:25 – 15:30 - Closing remarks by Larry Grummer-Strawn from WHO.


About The Speakers

Say hello to your Speakers for this Health talk.

Dr Phil Baker

Dr Phil Baker

Research Fellow, Deakin University

Jo Jewell

Jo Jewell

Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF

Lesley Oot

Lesley Oot

Associate Director, Alive & Thrive

Alissa Pries

Alissa Pries

Senior Research Advisor, Hellen Keller International

Lucy Sullivan

Lucy Sullivan

Founding Executive Director, Feed the Truth

Health pathways Covered

Unhealthy Diets and Food Insecurity