Monday, May 28, 2007

Having the last word

This is a story of two letters, that are, in different ways, missing. And various other letters connected to them. Could get confusing.

The first is my letter to The Guardian addressing some of the untrue claims in the letter from Nestlé published last week. The Guardian had run an article after a journalist went to Bangladesh to investigate if Nestlé is still aggressively marketing baby milk. She found hospitals full of both sick babies and Nestlé promotional fliers for giving to mothers for its Lactogen infant formula.

Nestlé responded saying the fliers were permitted under the World Health Assembly marketing requirements. Looking at what the requirements actually says shows very clearly that Nestlé is not telling the truth. As I explained last week. See:

I made some of the same points in a much shorter letter for publication. It has not appeared. But newspapers have to let someone have the last word. At least for now. And there are some other things going on in the world, so I won't complain too much. Particularly after it published the eye-witness account of what Nestlé is doing in Bangladesh.

A while ago it was suggested that Nestlé and Baby Milk Action engage in an exchange of emails, to be published. We agreed. Nestlé refused.

Just as it refuses our suggestion of an independent expert tribunal to examine the evidence. A tribunal could investigate claim and counter-claim, hear witnesses and come to a conclusion on who is telling the truth, taking the time necessary to do a proper job.

Time is necessary, because Nestlé tries to deceive people so it can continue with business as usual. As I have written previously, the truth does not lie somewhere between what we say and what Nestlé says. We are telling the truth and can prove it. See:

Nestlé's dismisses the tribunal proposal as a mock trial. But as I said directly to its Head of Corporate Affairs (now Head of Corporate Social Responsibility) who wrote Nestlé's letter in the Guardian, we are offering it the opportunity to kill this campaign once and for all.

Nestlé has even been offered the chance to go first by setting out its terms and conditions for the tribunal - who can be on the panel, its terms of reference etc. etc. It refuses to do so, knowing its denials do not stand up to scrutiny. Just as they didn't stand up to the scrutiny of the Advertising Standards Authority, which upheld all of Baby Milk Action's complaints about a Nestlé anti-boycott advertisement in 1999 after a two-year investigation.

Nestlé relies on its untrue claims not being exposed. By having the last word when it can.

Another way in which Nestlé is trying to have the last word is by refusing to send me a copy of its reply to my letter about its activities in the Philippines. You can see its initial letter and my reply here:

Nestlé chose to copy people in on its initial letter. Its follow up has gone to them, I understand, but not to me. It does not want Baby Milk Action to be able to respond.

I asked Nestlé new Head of Corporate Affairs to meet me with a copy of the letter, or leave one for me when I went to Nestlé (UK) HQ last weekend. There was no letter and no message.

Beverley has written since then. A letter arrived last week, admitting that Nestlé had indeed sent a reply to people in the Philippines.

It has no intention of sending me a copy.

Mmmm. May not be the last word on this particular story.

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