Barnardos has defended its choice of sponsor for its Big Toddle event after a group of high-level academics wrote a letter to the charity expressing concerns.
Danone is the sponsor of the Big Toddle for Barnardos, a half-mile sponsored walk for children under five, with the funds raised ploughed back into the charity's EarlyYears work.
The group of academics and child experts claimed in the letter that the involvement of a breast-milk substitute manufacturer breached the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.
The letter was issued by Malvina Walsh, chairwoman of the Baby Feeding Law Group Ireland, and co-signatories included Claire Allcutt, vice-chairwoman 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 that letter: "This sponsorship arrangement with Danone is at odds with the underlying ethos of Barnardos."
In response to that letter the CEO of Barnardos, Suzanne Connolly, said the charity needs to fundraise and as part of that sought corporate sponsorships, with all funds raised by the public going directly to support its services to help vulnerable children.
“We carry out an ethical evaluation with all corporate supporters to ascertain whether a relationship is appropriate or not. Barnardos has partnered with Danone on the Big Toddle for 16 years,” Ms Connolly said.
This partnership, and the children and crèches who take part, have allowed us to raise €3.9 million which has helped thousands of vulnerable children across the country.
"The partnership agreement we have in place with Danone is not an endorsement of any product under the Danone group and there is no reference to infant formula or breastfeeding in any of the materials developed for the Toddle.
"Danone have assured us of their compliance with the WHO Guidelines. We appreciate you taking the time to write such a comprehensive letter to us and will consider this as part our next evaluation of this sponsorship.”