An infant needs extreme care and protection since his/her birth. It is the duty
of the parents or guardians to provide the infant what it needs for its
survival. A very special duty falls on the mother to breastfeed the child as
mother's milk is rich in carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and is the
primary source of nutrition for the newborn.
Putting newborns to the breast is
critical to newborn survival and to establish breastfeeding over the long
term as it contains several life saving hormones vital for the newborn.
Breastfeeding is beneficial for both mother and the newborn, as it provides
certain enzymes, proteins and antibodies which decreases mortality in newborns
and protects them from diseases. Whereas breastfeeding helps the mothers to
combat postpartum depression and diminishes the probability of several diseases
like breast cancer, diabetes etc.
Mother's milk is the best food an infant can have while growing up. WHO
recommends exclusive breastfeeding of infants up-to six months and then
introduction of nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods from
six month together with continued breast-feeding up-to an age of two or
Keeping in mind the benefits of breastfeeding, every government has a duty to
protect and promote it. Since the industrialisation began, breastfeeding among
mothers have been constantly diminishing. The advent of infant milk substitutes
has added to this, leaving the infants vulnerable to several life-threatening
diseases. The goal of westernisation has also led many mothers in India to
bottle-feed their newborns. This is not a good practice and may result in high
Infant Mortality and Morbidity rates.
In absence of strong intervention by the government, this decline in the
breastfeeding may have been dangerous. Fearing this the World Health Assembly in
the year 1981 adopted the International Code for Marketing of Breastmilk
Substitute to be followed and reciprocated by every member of the Assembly in
their own territory.
Accordingly, the Parliament of India enacted The Milk Substitutes feeding
Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution)
Act, 1992. And, further amended it in the year 2003 for its better application.
The Milk Substitutes feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production,
Supply and Distribution) Act, 1992
The IMS Act, 1992 was enacted to protect and promote the breastfeeding of
newborns by their mothers. This Act also sought to regulate production, supply
and distribution of infant food substitutes and their advertisements.
In 1992, while introducing the in the Parliament, the then Minister of Human
Resource Development, Shri Arjun Singh, made a statement of objectives and
reasons of the Bill, which effectively identifies with our concerns;
"Inappropriate feeding practices lead to infant malnutrition, morbidity and
mortality in our children. Promotion of infant milk substitutes and related
products like feeding bottles and teats do constitute a health hazard. Promotion
of infant milk substitutes and related products has been more pervasive and
extensive than the dissemination of information concerning the advantages of
mother's milk and breastfeeding and contributes to decline in breastfeeding. In
the absence of strong interventions designed to protect, promote and support
breastfeeding, this decline can assume dangerous proportions subjecting millions
of infants to greater risks of infections, malnutrition and death���".
One of the main aims of the Act is to Protect breastfeeding in the wake of
modern technological advances with promoted the infant food substitutes instead
of mother's milk. This Act along with the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act,
1954 is aimed to regulate production, supply and distribution of infant food
substitutes by imposing various restrictions on advertisement, sale and even
recommendation of such substitutes to mothers or her family members.
Salient Features of The IMS Act, 1992
Some of the notable features of the Act which help in the protection and
promotion of breastfeeding in India are:
Objectives of the Act.
- IMS Act, 1992 is an Act to amend the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles
and Infants Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1992.
It provides for the regulation of production, supply and distribution of infant
milk substitutes, feeding bottles and infant foods with a view to the protection
and promotion of breastfeeding and ensuring the proper use of infant foods and
for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- It applies to the whole of India.
- The IMS Act, 1992 is a unique blend of penal and regulatory provisions of civil nature. Majority of its provisions are of penal nature and, are cognizable and bailable.
- This Act has been enacted in addition to the Food Adulteration Act, 1954. Thus, does-not bar any provision of the PFA Act or any rules made thereunder. In the case of Nestle India Ltd. v. The UOI (1995), it has been held by the Delhi HC that if any inconsistency which existed between the provisions of the PFA Act and the IMS Act, and pursual of one Act led to violation of another, would not amount to an offence committed under the Act so violated. Such actions are protected by the legal principle "Lex non cogit ad impossibilia" which means the law does-not compel doing of impossibilities.
- The IMS Act bans all types of promotion of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles and infant foods including offering any kind of inducement or offering to doctors, mothers or any of her relatives. The aim of the act is to prohibit Infant milk substitutes like Lactogen, Nestogen etc.
- Funding of seminars, meetings or any kind of sponsorship related to infant food substitutes is also prohibited. Chemist shops are also included in the definition of healthcare system thus prohibits promotion of infant food products through these shops too.
- It also bans incorrect information reaching mothers or her family members through advertisements of infant food substitutes. To curb misinformation the Act has provided for some instructions to be followed by such companies while advertising their products. The aim of the act is to educate women of the benefits of the breastfeeding and combat the decline through education and awareness.
- It prohibits sale and distribution of infant food substitutes without prior approval of the central government in conformity with the rules made under the PFA, 1954. Sec. 11 of the Act lays down the standard and quality control requirements to be followed by the manufacturers. It also empowers the Food Officer to confiscate and levy fines on such infant food manufacturers who do-not follow the procedures laid down in the section.
- The IMS Act is both substantive and penal in nature. It prescribes penalties if the provisions of the act are contravened. Sec. 20 of the Act provides that if any person violates the provisions relating to the packaging of infant food substitutes contained in the sec. 6 or the standard and quality of such substitutes as mentioned in the sec. 11(1) of the Act, shall be punishable with imprisonment not less than six months which may extend to three years and a fine not less than two thousand rupees or both.
- Any person who violates the provisions of the sections 3,4,5,7,8,9,10 and subsection (2) of section 11 and the rules made under section 26 of the Act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with a fine which may extend to five thousand rupees or both.
- The rationale behind prescribing punishments for the violations of the provisions of the Act is that children are the future of the country and providing better access to nutrition is one the many duties of the state. The punishment to the offender act as a deterrent and is also retributive in nature.
The statement of objectives by the then HRD Minister as mentioned above during
the parliamentary discussions clearly states that the high mortality and
morbidity rates in India owes its existence due to malnourishment of the
newborns. The statement also focused on the issue of infant food substitutes
adding to malnourishment of a newborn. It acknowledged the growing concern of
the government towards reduced breastfeeding of a newborn by mothers.
needs mother's milk to boost his immune system. No substitute can ever replace
the nutritional value of mother's milk. The technological advances of the
science could not have been given the wheel to drive us all to our doom. Thus,
to counter the advances of science and protect and promote breastfeeding of
children, the government of India decided to enact the IMS Act, 1992 and amended
it further in the year 2003 to make its application more-easier. It prohibits
the supply or distribution of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles and
However, there are certain circumstances where supply or distribution of infant
milk substitutes, feeding bottles and infant foods are permissible. The Act
provides certain prohibitions and commands/ affirmations to be followed by the
manufacturers, seller of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles and infant
Some of the prohibitions as mentioned in the IMS Act are as follows:
Is IMS Act a penal law?
- Advertisement or publication of any such advertisement for the distribution, sale or supply of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles, or infant foods are. [sec. 3(a)]
- Giving an impression that the infant milk substitutes are better than the mother's milk. [sec. 3(b)]
- Promotion of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles, or infant foods. [sec. 3(c)]
- Supply or distribution of samples of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles, or infant food for the purpose of promotion of such items. [sec. 4(a)]
- Inducement of any kind to the mother for the promotion of any infant food substitutes. [sec. 4(b)]
- Donation and distribution of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles, or infant foods to anyone except to an orphanage. [sec. 5(a)] & [sec. 8(4)]
- Display of a woman, child, or both on the container of infant food substitutes or feeding bottles. [sec. 6(2)(b)]
- Use of words such as 'humanized', 'maternalized' or any other similar words on the container of the infant milk substitute to suggest that it is better than the mother's milk. [sec. 6(2)(c)]
- Display of placards or any form of advertisement in the healthcare system for the purpose of promoting the sale of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles, or infant foods. [sec. 8(1)]
- Payment by producer, manufacturer, seller of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles, or infant foods to any worker of health care system for their promotion or sale. [sec. 8(2)]
- Sale of infant food substitutes or feeding bottles at rates higher than their sale price except sale of such items to an orphanage. [sec. 8(5)]
- Inducement or promoting of the use of health workers to promote infant food substitutes or feeding bottles by a producer, manufacturer, or distributor in monetary or non-monetary form. [Sec. 9(1)]
- Monetary contribution or pecuniary benefit given to health care workers by the producers or suppliers of the infant milk substitutes or feeding bottles including funding of seminars, meetings, scholarship, research, etc. [sec. 9(2)]
- Fixing remuneration or commission to employees by the employers or manufacturers of the infant food substitutes on the basis of the volume of sale of such substitutes by the employees. [sec.10(1)]
- Distribution or sale of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles, or infant foods without compliance of the PFA Act,1952.
Just enacting a law in conformity with the international standards by the
Parliament is not enough. The IMS Act along with the prohibitions and
affirmations provides a mechanism to implement its provisions. Along with the
substantive part the Act also contains the procedures to be followed along with
the punishments in case of violation of the substantive part of the Act.
Section 12 of the Act authorises a Food Officer appointed under the PFA Act to
enter and search at any reasonable time any factory, premises or any other place
where any trade or commerce in infant milk substitute, feeding bottles or infant
food is being carried out, if he has sufficient reasons to believe that
provisions mentioned in the sec. 6 and 11 of the Act has or is being
contravened. The search and seizure shall be carried out in the manner as
prescribed under the Cr.P.C.
Any infant milk substitute, feeding bottle or infant food which contravenes the
provision of the Act, shall be liable to be confiscated or as deemed fit by the
court the person producing or storing such substitutes may be tried by the
The IMS Act provides for two types of court to have the jurisdiction to try and
adjudicate upon the cases relating to the contraventions of the provisions of
the Act. Provisions, concerning confiscation, search and levying of costs are to
be tried by the Principal Civil Court having original jurisdiction and pecuniary
jurisdiction of not less than Rs. 5000.
Any person who contravenes the provisions of sec. 3-10 or sec. 11(1) and rules
mentioned in the sec. 26 of the Act is liable to punishment of imprisonment for
a term which may extend to three years or a fine which may extend to five
thousand rupees or both. The power to try these matters is with the court of
criminal jurisdiction as mentioned in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The
offences committed under this Act are cognizable and bailable.
The provisions of appeal from any decision of the court having jurisdiction to
try such cases has been enumerated in the sec. 19 of the Act. Any person
aggrieved from the decision of the court adjudication a confiscation or ordering
costs can appeal to an appeal to the appellate court. However, no further appeal
lies against the decision rendered by the appellate court.
Application of the Act in Everyday Life.
As far as the application of the IMS Act in India is concerned, it has been
satisfactory. India enacted the Act very early and since then has developed
various mechanisms to implement the Act. Breastfeeding Promotion Network of
India established in the year 1991 is a national non-profit organisation which
primarily focuses on protecting and promoting of breastfeeding among lactating
mothers. Several other establishments and organisations have been setup in this
However, in the past there have been several instances where big MNCs and
corporations have voluntarily contravened the provisions of the IMS Act. Food
corporations such as Nestle have violated the provisions of the Act by
organising seminars relating to the infant food habits and have been held
accountable by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). E-Commerce
companies such as Amazon, Flipkart too have been found violating the provisions
of the IMS Act by providing discounts on feeding bottles on their website.
everyday life, it can be said that the government may improvise on the
application of the Act. Feeding bottle of low quality are being sold in everyday
shops, without any authorisation under the PFA Act. And, newborns are still
being fed ordinary dairy milk without any consultation of paediatrician. Big
corporations are still offering discounts and organising seminars to promote
their infant food substitutes.
In this regard more work and awareness are to be done by the govt. and concerned
establishments and organisations. Awareness towards the benefits of
breastfeeding and harms of infant milk substitutes can only bring a change in
the society. We as a society need to deplenish the consumer base of these big
infant food manufacturers and suppliers and give to our infants what they need
for their healthy growth.
IMS Act, 1992 has been enacted to protect infants from infant milk substitutes
and baby foods. The harms of administering milk substitute instead of mother's
milk is obvious. Thus, this Act was enacted by the parliament prohibiting
manufacturing, supply and distribution of infant milk substitutes, feeding
bottles and infant foods except in certain cases provided in the Act. It also
prohibits passing of any information to mothers that any substitute is as good
or better than the mother's milk. The Act further prohibits any advertisement of
the infant food substitutes and offering any monetary inducement to promote such
The Act also provides punishments and levying of fines for the violation of the
provisions of the Act by making such violations an offence to be tried by the
Principal Civil court having a pecuniary jurisdiction of not less than five
thousand rupees. The offences committed under the IMS Act, are cognizable and
bailable. Any proceeding under the Act can be initiated on the presentation of a
formal complaint by any person, Food Officer, NGOs etc.
The Act also authorises the Food Officer to enter and conduct search and seizure
on any premises at any reasonable time if he has sufficient reason to believe
that any provisions of the Act are being contravened or violated. The Government
of India has provided for various other mechanisms for the better functioning of
the Act and achieve the objectives of the Act. BPNI is one of such institutions
responsible for promoting awareness among new mothers regarding the benefits of
breastfeeding and harms of milk substitutes.
Though the application of the IMS Act can be said to be satisfactory but still
we need to do better so the infant mortality and morbidity rates go down with
the sales of such substitutes.
- WHO Team, WHO & UNICEF: Early Initiation of Breast-feeding, PMNCH.WHO.COM (11 July, 2018)
- WHO Team, Infant and Young Child Feeding, WHO.COM (9 June, 2021)
- DR. ARUN GUPTA, The Law to Protect, Promote and Support Breastfeeding 3, (2016)
- The Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1992 as Amended in 2003, No. 38, ACTS OF PARLIAMENT, 2013 (INDIA)
- Sinduja Jane, Flipkart, Amazon among E-commerce giants in trouble for discounts on Feeding Bottles, NEWINDIANEXPRESS.COM (30 Aug. 2019)