Friday, November 10, 2006

Nestlé statement of regret over children’s book prize

I made our campaign page on the Nestlé children's book prize live today on the Baby Milk Action website at

It links to loads of resources for students and teachers: written, audio and video. Nestlé's promotion in schools presents an opportunity for students and teachers to question why it is there and wider issues of infant feeding, corporate marketing practices, public relations, human rights and ethics.

We have a schools' pack, which contains 14 participatory-style lesson plans, case studies and a host of background material, to help students deconstruct public relations messages - from companies and their critics. It is free to access on-line at

Nestlé is a company that puts its own profits before infant health in the way it pushes its baby foods in breach of international standards. The contradictions of it sponsoring the Booktrust children's book prize are obvious and we hope will be talked about. Today I was able to do just that on a cable television programme for teachers, Teachers' TV.

The 6 minute slot in the news programme examined how pressure groups and companies are making materials available for schools. There are clearly issues of what to allow into schools, which should be a concern for students and teachers alike. That is the point of our schools' pack. How to deconstruct the messages in sponsored materials and understand the motivation of those who are producing them. One of the exercises looks at an image that Baby Milk Action uses. Another, a Nestlé anti-boycott advertisement. In another students develop a policy for vetting materials, which could be presented to the board of governors.

You can see the Teachers' TV programme here. The piece on pressure groups and companies is about 15 minutes and 30 seconds into the programme. The part specifically on the Nestlé book prize is at 19 minutes 50 seconds. Check out the page on our website as this may be updated with the clip, copyright permitting.

Nestlé provided a statement to Teachers' TV. It said:

"Nestlé is a socially responsible company.. It is regrettable that a UK campaign group is attempting to undermine a unique and well-regarded book prize, aimed at rewarding high standards in children's literature."

Well, thank you for that, Nestlé. No doubt it does regret the bad publicity. And is not happy about its impact on child health being on television and in the media once again and its practices questioned in schools.

The questioning helps to educate and to keep up the pressure on Nestlé. If schools opt out of the Nestlé children's book prize or join those calling for the Booktrust to find a different sponsor it will send a strong message that will echo around the world.

We think the book prize is a great idea, except for the Nestlé link. Long may it continue without Nestlé, just as the teenage book prize went ahead without Nestlé after protests from authors. Just as the Nestlé Perrier Award for Comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival continues under a different guise following protests over Nestlé involvement from the public and performers. Nestlé pulled out this year.

As the first entry in this blog explained, pressure from the boycott is forcing changes from Nestlé and helping to save infant lives. The boycott makes Nestlé baby food marketing practices an issue wherever the company raises its head.

And should not students and teachers question why a book prize has to come with Nestlé branding attached? A company producing a range of foods targetted at children, many of which are high in salt, fat and sugar and contributing to the epidemic of obesity.

Should they not question why the book prize press release goes further than Nestlé's sponsorship for it and boasts of Nestlé's support for children's charities more generally?

Should they not question why Nestlé's record of abusing children's rights in its baby food marketing and other areas, such as failing to act on child slavery in its cocoa supply chains, does not disqualify it as a sponsor?

But Nestlé inhabits a topsy-turvy world. It suggests it is Baby Milk Action's behaviour in raising these questions that should be regretted.


1 comment:

joe said...

Nice interview, how can they say they are socially responsible? didn't they say that before and you proved them wrong?