Barnardos will be asked to drop Danone as sponsor of its 'Big Toddle' by a group of academics and child experts, who claim the involvement of a breast-milk substitute manufacturer breaches the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.
The successful Big Toddle for Barnardos is a half-mile sponsored walk for children under five, with the funds raised ploughed back into the charity's Early Years work.
However, in the letter to be sent to the charity, the group of health professionals and researchers appealed to Barnardos to change sponsor, claiming: "this sponsorship arrangement with Danone is at odds with the underlying ethos of Barnardos."
Signatories to the letter include Claire Allcutt, Vice-Chair of the Baby Feeding Law Group Ireland, Helen Cawley, Director of the First Steps Nutrition Trust, Marita Hennessy of the Health Behaviour Change Research Group in the School of Psychology at NUI Galway, and Margaret Murphy, Lecturer in Midwifery at University College Cork.
According to the letter: "The ongoing sponsorship of The Big Toddle for Barnardos by a breast-milk substitute manufacturer breaches The WHO Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.
"Barnardos, UK has never accepted corporate sponsorship for the Big Toddle event.
"It is also inconsistent with the work which your patron, Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland and his wife Sabina have been doing to support breastfeeding," it said.
The letter is also being issued to Áras an Uachtaráin and to others, including celebrity chef, Donal Skehan, who helped launch this year's event last April.
In the letter to Barnardos CEO Suzanne Connolly, the writers said: "We are aware that concerns about overt marketing of an infant formula brand have been brought to the attention of Barnardos Ireland previously.
We now wish to appeal to you in your role as the new CEO, to reconsider this sponsorship since parents’ and society’s confidence in breastfeeding is undermined by the promotion of breast-milk substitutes.
A spokesperson for Barnardos said: "We are not able to comment because we haven’t received a letter."
According to Barnardos, since the event began nearly half a million toddlers have toddled 250,000 miles to raise funds for vulnerable children their own age.