Monday, April 16, 2007

Holding companies to account for malpractice in India

Our partners in India have issued a new legal briefing on baby food company marketing malpractice.

India is in many respects a success story for implementation of the marketing requirements for baby foods. Though it took 11 years, India did introduce legislation which our partners have used to take legal action against several companies. Including Nestlé and Johnson and Johnson. The latter pulled out of the feeding bottle business as a result. Nestlé took the government to court in a ultimately failed attempt to have the law struck down. Find out more about the dedicated campaign to introduce and strengthen the Indian law in the IBFAN case studies report.

Having a law is not enough. We have seen how Wyeth is responding in the UK to a crackdown on illegal activities - with a new aggressive marketing campaign. We are calling for action against this, while exposing Wyeth's contempt for the regulations, infant health and mothers' rights.

In India, Nestlé continues to flout the regulations and to reject complaints about its malpractice. Our partners, the Breastfeeding Protection Network of India, write about the campaign in support run by Baby Milk Action and quote Nestlé's response to us. In part BPNI writes:

---Quote begins

Baby Milk Action (BMA) took stern steps against Nestle over illegal promotional activities in India. In replying to the accusation made by BMA, Nestlé, however, admits to some of the charges, but claims its activities are legal referring to the provisions of old IMS Act 1992 which was amended in 2003.

Nestle was charged for illegal distribution of educational materials by a Nestle representative to the parents in a clinic at Srinagar which was not allowed under the provisions of IMS Act 2003.

It also denies leaflets were distributed to mothers at a clinic in Srinagar. The doctor, who is the in-charge of the clinic, confirmed the Nestle incident. Did Nestlé Chief Executive, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, really act on his claim to personally investigate any hint of a violation?
---quotation ends

The full legal briefing leads on this case and the support of the doctor in confirming the details of the incident.

Last week, Mr. Brabeck commented on the boycott in a report in the Daily Telegraph about Nestlé's takeover of Gerber. He said: "We are considered today one of the most socially responsible companies in the world. Yet you have a small group of people in the UK who are still talking about infant formula, which was an issue 30 years ago."

In reality, Nestlé is one of the most boycotted companies on the planet. And if we are talking about Nestlé malpractice in the UK it is because of the concerns of our partners in India and other countries. Not thirty years ago as Mr. Brabeck would like people to believe, but today.

Not only do those on the ground stand by the report of Nestlé malpractice, the legal briefing has a further report on apparently illegal activities by Nestlé, along with GlaxoSmithKline and FDC.

As BPNI states in commending the action of the doctor in Srinagar: "As a doctor you don't just dignose the disease of a child but you should monitor and control the health system of your locality."

We hope journalists will look to the facts and not accept Mr. Brabeck's denials at face value, particularly in reporting on the Nestlé shareholder meeting on Thursday.

Further evidence of systematic and institutionalised malpractice can be found in the codewatch section of the Baby Milk Action website. Or try speaking to people who see and experience the suffering that results from Nestlé pursuit of Mr. Brabeck's annual growth target.

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