Monday, November 27, 2006

Hipp: organic farmer and human rights violator

Hipp: organic farmer and human rights violator

I've written in the past about the Hipp baby food company and how in some countries in Central and Eastern Europe it found to be responsible for the most aggressive undermining of breastfeeding (though in some cases it has risen to this position after Nestlé malpractice has been successfully targeted).

Don't just take my word for it. Listen to a paediatrician from Armenia, who I interviewed earlier this year. See the 'broadcasts' section of the Baby Milk Action website or go direct to

In the UK we also see outrageous practices, such as parents being targeted with Hipp promotional materials when they go to register the birth of their child. These encourage mothers to visit the Hipp website or to call its careline number.

Today I watched the Hipp video received by some mothers. It is called: "Hipp Organic. Your Baby's Health. The Importance of Choosing the Right Foods".

It makes much of the organic farming methods used for Hipp products, with voice over comments such as: "Even if you don't feed her organic foods later in life you will know you have given her the very best possible start to her future."

Well, not if you follow the advice in the video, because it encourages early introduction of complementary foods. And Hipp products are promoted for use from 4 months of age, despite the World Health Assembly Resolution from 12 years ago saying complementary feeding should be fostered from about 6 months. We have campaigned on this repeatedly, but all companies continue to promote complementary feeding from 4 months. In 2003 Nestlé did give us an undertaking to change this policy and has done so to a large extent, but as we have recently reported in the campaign to defend the Philippines regulations on baby food marketing, it still encourages early introduction in some countries and some marketing.

Early introduction of complementary foods is big business. We have exposed in the past how the industry is concerned that is must stop mothers: 'drifting into home-made foods.' (See IBFAN Case Studies). One way is by portraying the companies complementary foods as a natural continuation of using its formula. Another is by encouraging introduction of foods at an age when the child is not yet ready for solid foods, so processed purés are an attractive option for parents.

There is a growing body of evidence that if children are allowed to follow their own instincts and ability to handle food, then at around 6 months they will start to eat family foods. These will need some thought, particularly things like salt levels, but not the preparation and effort required to encourage a child to eat something from a spoon at an earlier age. Look for information on 'baby-led weaning'. I'll write something more about it one day.

So the strategy for a company wanting to stop the 'drift into home-made foods' is to promote foods for use from 4 months of age.

The Hipp video says early on: "For the first 6 months everyone knows breastfeeding is best, but what comes next?"

Actually, Hipp, if you read the World Health Organisation Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, what everyone knows is optimal infant feeding is: "EXCLUSIVE breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and with nutritionally adequate and safe complementary feeding through introduction of safe and adequate amounts of indigenous foodstuffs and local foods while breastfeeding continues up to the age of two years and beyond." (emphasis added). The UK Department of Health advice follows this, with the 6 month recommendation for introduction of complementary foods the same for breastfed and artificially-fed infants.

What Hipp suggests comes after 6 months of breastfeeding is its processed foods, with no mention of continued breastfeeding. In fact, even before 6 months, stating in the video: "When your baby is ready for solids at about 4 to 6 months you want the food you give him to be the best it can be."

The video claims: "We work very closely with experts in child nutrition and take all the latest scientific recommendations into account when developing our baby foods." Not true, as Hipp works to undermine the World Health Organisation recommendations.

The video includes footage of Mr. Claus Hipp, head of the company and the man responsible for undermining breastfeeding and putting infants at risk, through misleading information like this, more aggressive promotion in Central and Eastern Europe and opposing legislation on baby food marketing in countries such as Georgia (opposition that was unsuccessful thanks to health campaigners).

There is a nice sounding closing message from Mr. Hipp on screen. It says:

"The future health of our children is at the heart of our company and this is a big responsibility. To us nothing is more precious than our children's health and well being. It always has been so and always will be so."

For those trying to persuade Hipp to abide by international marketing standards it is evident there is one thing more precious than children's health and well-being - money.

Hipp: Human rights violator

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems your whole concern is that Hipp is trying to maximize their profitability. What do you expect?

The fact that they mention at all that breastfeeding should go until six months is great. Here in Hanoi almost nobody breastfeeds (my wife is an exception, thankfully). Obviously any encouragement of breastfeeding hurts Hipps bottomline. I am glad they make the sacrifice.

Let us not think everything everyone tells us should be accepted without subjecting it to our reasoning. Oil companies tell us to slow down but sponsor races.

Of course, what any company says is designed to promote use of their products. Just take it with a grain of salt.